As a humanitarian organization located in Lenexa, Kansas, Heart to Heart International (HHI) focuses on providing crisis relief and improving access to health. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the two issues converged, and HHI responded to the public health crisis by providing improved access to medical supplies, testing, equipment, medicines, and more.
In fact, HHI sent medical and humanitarian aid to all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
The aid includes medical equipment, medicines, personal protective equipment, and hygiene kits delivered to organizations working to protect the most vulnerable communities, including nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, clinics, day care centers and food pantries. The organizations that received the aid are working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and flooding.
Access to personal protection equipment (PPE) has been one of the most challenging issues for the health care community nationwide during the coronavirus outbreak. Keeping health care workers safe remains a top priority of HHI, and especially in this fight against COVID-19.
More than 1.7 million units of PPE were delivered to hard-hit areas across the U.S., including Chicago, Los Angeles, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, and more. One hospital worker reported that they had been completely out of N95 masks until the shipment of PPE from HHI arrived. The shipments contained not only N95 masks, but also patient masks, face shields, exam gloves and gowns – all desperately needed by frontline workers.
In addition, Heart to Heart International distributed more than 137,000 hygiene kits to homeless shelters, health care facilities, school districts, faith-based programs, food pantries, public safety organizations, and more. 36,000 of those kits were distributed to organizations in Kansas and Missouri.
These kits include essential items to stay clean such as toothpaste, a washcloth, soap and shampoo. Basic hygiene offers the first line of defense against the spread of illness and the first step toward staying healthy. This is especially important for vulnerable populations.
Testing prevents spread
Heart to Heart International also provided free COVID-19 testing to the Kansas City community through partnerships with the University of Kansas Medical Center, Johnson County, Kansas, and Clay County, Missouri.
For the past several months, more than 12,000 individuals have been tested at drive-thru sites in various locations throughout Metro Kansas City.
Because testing is critical to controlling the spread of the outbreak, HHI was part of the efforts to provide free testing throughout the community along with messaging about physical distancing, stay-at-home orders and mask mandates.
Some of the free COVID-19 testing HHI conducted was a part of a study to help researchers understand more about how workers are contracting the virus, and how and where they are moving through the community. This information will provide employers, community leaders, and policymakers with better evidence as they make decisions about re-opening businesses or activities. This part of the research tested approximately 5,000 individuals (mostly essential workers) who live in predominantly marginalized communities with limited resources and access to health care services.
Although 2020 was like no other year, HHI was prepared to improve health care access in the United States and throughout the world even during a global pandemic. The nonprofit was able to achieve this mission by staying true to its focus of crisis relief and health access.