Flu Fighters: Jennifer Kraschnewski and Andrea Murray
Meet flu fighters Jennifer Kraschnewski and Andrea Murray. Jennifer and Andrea facilitate the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program at the Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center. Their REACH programexternal icon actively engages members of the community to plan and carry out proven strategies that are culturally appropriate to prevent chronic diseases, promote healthy behaviors and address the root causes of racial and ethnic health disparities. The REACH program tailors practice- and evidence-based strategies locally related to the pillars of nutrition, physical activity and community clinical linkages to reflect the needs of the communities.
Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski is a primary health care provider who acts as the principal investigator for the REACH program. She serves as a bridge between the community and organizers to promote healthy behaviors, including flu vaccination. In this role, she ensures the program stays on track and can pivot when necessary, like during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Kraschnewski fights flu because as a primary care provider, she recognizes that prevention is key. Flu vaccination is an opportunity to prevent what can be a devastating illness one that, unfortunately, she has witnessed in her own patients. Dr. Kraschnewski believes public health is vital and loves to be part of the community efforts to help improve health equity throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
Andrea Murray is the project manager and community engagement coordinator of the Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center REACH program. Andrea tries to create collaborative partnerships that focus on improving health outcomes at a community level by building good project infrastructure and workflow with the help of community members, community health workers and the rest of the REACH team. Andrea fights flu to protect her family, her community and her co-workers. Public health is her passion, so fighting flu and ensuring that everybody has an equal opportunity to receive a flu vaccine is especially important to her.
- What is the goal of the program?
The overarching goal of our REACH program is to help reduce health disparities in our Hispanic and Latino communities in Central Pennsylvania. The focus is improving healthy food access and physical activity opportunities, as well as creating community clinical linkages, particularly around preventing diabetes. Our goal with the flu supplement is to address barriers and concerns about flu vaccination amongst Hispanic and Latino populations in Central Pennsylvania. The REACH program is also working to increase community connections and implement public health programs for those without ready access to flu vaccination.
- How does the program seek to address flu and health disparities?
The goal is to help “community champions” in Hispanic and Latino communities, who are role models and individuals that are looked up to, highlight their own receipt of the flu vaccine to help decrease barriers and misunderstandings about flu vaccination. The research project in general works to address health disparities. We work with our community partners to create a collaborative process that utilizes networks and partnerships with organizations in both Lebanon and Berks Counties. We collect resources with these community partners, and we focus on the priority areas related to their needs. For flu vaccination, we work in collaboration with two community partners, Penn State Health and Latino Connection, to increase access to flu vaccinations in the Hispanic and Latino communities. We also have created a marketing campaign that addresses barriers and concerns about the flu vaccination with Hayman Studios, a regional marketing firm. Our REACH program emphasizes empowering community leaders to encourage flu vaccinations in the communities that they live in.
- Why is it important to fight flu in your program’s community?
The Hispanic and Latino populations in both Lebanon and Berks Counties are on the rise. We know that providing those populations with the opportunities to fight flu and empowering them with the knowledge that they need to fight flu in their communities is important. The Hispanic and Latino community acts as a big family, so when they see community leaders getting a flu vaccine and talking about why they got a flu vaccine, it empowers the community to make an educated decision about being vaccinated against the flu. We are suffering from what could potentially be a dual pandemic with flu and COVID-19. Unfortunately, our Hispanic and Latino communities were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic here in Pennsylvania, so it’s even more important this year to ensure that they have accurate information and access to the vaccine. If people are interested and willing to receive the flu vaccine, we want to ensure they have opportunities and better access to the flu vaccine through the pop-up events that we help orchestrate.
- What successes have you realized, or do you hope to realize through this program?
We’ve seen successes in empowering our community by having organizational leaders and community leaders as the face of the marketing campaign. We could have hired actors to do the video montage or models to take pictures, but we decided that it was really important for the community to see the faces of people that they know and trust. We’ve heard positive feedback from multiple community members. The community leaders are really taking a hold of this program and making it a great one. This opportunity through CDC’s REACH program has given us a chance to bring more voices to the table that don’t normally have an opportunity to speak up. We are embracing the community that we’re seeking to serve, and a tremendous component of ensuring that health disparities are addressed is having the voices of the people that are in the impacted communities sitting at the table.