Bridging the Gap with CovidSMS

I have shadowed doctors and nurses both in the US and in Spain, and a critical difference which I noticed was that the cost of almost all medical care is covered in Spain. This leads to people being able to go to the doctor whenever they are worried at all about their health, while as in the US, low-income populations are often flooded with medical costs and subsequently, debt, when they need preventative care or surgeries. More often than not, the patients also need medication, after which they can only hope that their insurance or hospital programs for the uninsured will help cover the cost. When I learned about how CovidSMS was connecting people to affordable food, healthcare, and unemployment services, I wanted to do what I could to help reduce that disparity and allow people to receive the assistance that they need without worrying if their savings will stretch to cover the cost.

As a future healthcare professional, I am aware that the system currently in the United States makes it so that not everyone has the privilege of receiving the treatment they need or not falling into debt because of it. However, I also know that healthcare is not the only resource which underserved populations are in need of, especially when there could be more immediate struggles, such as how to pay for food or rent, when so many people have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.

In light of this, one of my favorite aspects of CovidSMS is how this organization was built from the ground up when there was a need for it in the community. I also like how we find the organizations ourselves, schedule meetings with them, and refine our services with each partnership that comes by. I hope that it will continue to grow and that city departments, organizations, and clinics will use it to send important information, especially to underserved populations. A typical day on CovidSMS looks like a lot of voicemails, emails, and hoping that the organizations aren’t too busy and will get in touch.

While working in outreach, I learned that organizations want to do their best to help, but also do not have an infinite amount of time or resources at their disposal, so it is often best to explain our aims and how CovidSMS could either help save their time or extend and distribute their resources. If the organization is to put effort into a partnership in the hopes that it might help their clients, then we also have to build a service that can be a credit to their organization and clients.

As of now, I work on the community outreach team and schedule meetings with organizations to see if they would like to create a partnership. I formed a partnership with the LAC+USC Wellness Center by leaving a voicemail for the communications manager, after which she called me back and we scheduled a meeting. During the meeting, she explained that the idea of a text service had been brought up in the organization, but had never been realized due to the pandemic. She was excited to be able to send out mass messages via the broadcasting portal, and use the Wellness Center’s existing database and programs in tandem with the communications service which we offered. I think that our subsequent meetings did well in helping us to understand how we could adapt our resources to the Wellness Center, thereby helping them send out safety information about the pandemic and advertise some of their virtual mental and physical health programs. Through this partnership, I learned that many organizations have programs which could benefit people in the Los Angeles community, but sometimes the community is not aware that these services exist. An important part of our work is connecting organizations with the populations they serve, so that people can hopefully learn about and use those resources in the future.