Evaluating the Peel Community Health Ambassador Program: Building trusting, equitable, and responsive healthcare during the COVID‑19 pandemic
The Peel region of Ontario has experienced one of the highest positivity rates for COVID‑19 across Canada. Individuals and families from Peel’s diverse communities have experienced negative impacts to their overall health and well-being including barriers to accessing care, psychological stress, trauma and poor mental health, lack of physical activity, and social isolation. Data collected throughout the pandemic show that certain communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID‑19 based on race, immigration, gender, housing, and employment. In response to the structural inequalities and barriers that have impacted COVID‑19 testing and vaccination, the Community Health Ambassador (CHA) Program was developed and implemented in high priority communities in Peel through Ontario’s High Priority Communities Strategy. Starting in January 2021 and implemented through six community agencies, the purpose of the CHA Program was to provide culturally specific community outreach, education, and support during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Through partnership between community agencies, healthcare workers, researchers, Community Health Ambassadors, and community members in Peel, this mixed methods evaluation of the CHA Program will fill a critical research gap and yield timely, high-quality, and relevant evidence about how communities can respond effectively to the ongoing pandemic and minimize the direct and indirect impacts on people who identify from racialized communities experiencing structural inequalities. These findings will be valuable for diverse communities experiencing disproportionate impacts of COVID‑19 across Canada and globally.