Award Winners Embrace CMS Health Equity Framework

June 21, 2024
The 2024 CMS Health Equity Award winners are Pennsylvania-based Latino Connection and Shenandoah Valley, Virginia-based Augusta Health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently recognized two organizations that are using the CMS Framework for Health Equity to help reduce disparities in healthcare access, quality, and outcomes, with 2024 Health Equity Awards. The winners are Pennsylvania-based Latino Connection and Virginia-based Augusta Health.

In previous years, CMS recognized organizations who have demonstrated a strong commitment to health equity by reducing disparities affecting vulnerable populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, individuals with limited English proficiency, members of rural, Tribal, and geographically isolated communities, and other individuals impacted by persistent poverty and inequality.

Harrisburg, Pa.-based Latino Connection was recognized for its Community-Accessible Testing & Education (CATE) Initiative. In 2014, George Fernandez founded Latino Connection as a community-based organization in the heart of Pennsylvania to create and activate programming in low-income communities to address every aspect of the social determinants of health. 

The organization’s Community-Accessible Testing & Education (CATE) initiative was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of addressing disparities in access to essential resources and education among underserved communities. With Latino Connection being the first Latino and LGBTQ+ organization to launch such a program, CATE represents a groundbreaking effort to provide critical support to populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including minorities, low-income individuals, LGBTQ+ communities, and those residing in urban areas.

CATE has reached thousands of Pennsylvanians with lifesaving resources and education. Between 2020 and 2022, nearly 9,000 COVID-19 tests and over 17,000 vaccinations were administered across the state, particularly in vulnerable and underserved communities who may not have had access otherwise. CATE also provided 500 flu shots and 10,000 PPE kits, resources, and education in both English and Spanish to the more than 37,000 people that attended all of their community events combined.

Augusta Health is a 255-bed, nonprofit, independent hospital serving communities of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, in a semi-rural setting. Embracing their vision to be “a national model for community-based healthcare,” Augusta Health reaches out to neighborhoods with rural geographic barriers and local cities with high poverty rates and adverse social and health barriers. One of the ways they respond to acute deficits in access to healthcare in the community is through the implementation and growth of their Primary Care Mobile Clinic program (Today known as the Augusta Health Neighborhood Clinics). 



Since its official launch in September 2022, the Primary Care Mobile Clinic program has expanded to operate at 14 unique sites each month. Sites have included community centers, churches, a fire house, the mayor’s office, and homeless shelters. Neighborhood selection is based on identifying communities in the most need through analysis using the University of Wisconsin’s Area Deprivation Index (ADI) score and mapping techniques.  Building upon the analytics, the key component for their success is having a community partners with local expertise in key social services like housing and food insecurity. 



Within the first full year of the program, the Primary Mobile Clinic has provided more than 1,700 primary care visits for 825 patients at 17 different community sites. Services vary by location and are based on community need.

Past winners of the CMS Health Equity Award include HealthPartners, Centene Corp., Kaiser Permanente, and Novant Health.


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