Advancing Health Equity, Addressing Disparities (AHEAD AZ)

six image bubbles forming a hub showing a female hiker, a man getting vaccinated, people working, a physician caring for a patient and a grandmother with her grand daughter

Advancing Health Equity, Addressing Disparities (AHEAD AZ) is a UArizona Center for Rural Health program funded through the AZ Department of Health Services (ADHS) – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Initiative to address COVID-19 health disparities among populations at high risk for COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.

AHEAD Fast Facts

In collaboration with community partners across the state, the work of AHEAD AZ aims to promote community resilience focusing on the following areas:

  • Community education and engagement
  • Public health and healthcare workforce well-being and resilience, support, training, and education 
  • COVID-19 vaccination and recovery

AHEAD Features

AHEAD Team Participates in Farmworker Health Fair Event

In December, the Advancing Health Equity, Addressing Disparities in Arizona (AHEAD AZ) team participated in the 29th Anniversary Farmworker Health Fair Event. This event is organized by the non-profit organization Campesinos Sin Fronteras, in San Luis, Yuma County, Arizona. AHEAD AZ and 50 other participating organizations provided resources to support the health well-being of farmworkers.


group working together brainstorming

Workforce Support and Training

AHEAD supports public health related programs in the process of building a strong workforce that can continue to improve the health and well-being of rural communities across Arizona. The training module prepares public health professionals to understand/review conceptual foundations and develop practical skills on the following learning topics:   

  • Introduction to Public Health  
  • Elements of a Healthy Community  
  • Cultural Humility  
  • Health Boundaries, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA)  
  • Trauma Informed Care   
  • Crisis Intervention  
  • Introduction to the Role of Health Navigator 
woman with a name badge talks to two young girls laughing with their mother, father in a cowboy hat and baby in a stroller

Community Education and Engagement

» New: ADHS COVID-19 Mobile Testing Program

The ADHS mobile vaccination program is here to provide COVID-19 testing access for all Arizonans who want it. ADHS' program focuses on unsheltered Arizonans and those residing in correctional facilities; however, all community partners who work with diverse or traditionally underserved communities statewide are encouraged to fill out the easy online request form. In coordination with partners like you, ADHS will send its mobile testing partners anywhere in the state to provide short to medium term “pop-up” testing sites.

» The Arc of Arizona – Video: Self-Advocate Perspectives on the COVID-19 Vaccination

Through the AHEAD initiative, the Center for Rural Health and UAHS BioCommunications assisted with a Spanish narrated version of the Arc of AZ’s video on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination from the perspective of self-advocates with a disability. Both the English and Spanish versions can be accessed at

» Reflections on the COVID Response, Arizona Rural Health Conference

» Check out a new report from the AHEAD AZ Team: Pathways to Improve Arizona’s Public Benefits Enrollment Report

Workforce trainings 

Navigator Training in Pima County

The AHEAD team and Pima County Health Department are developing a navigator model to facilitate the work of community health workers/representatives (CHW/CHR) and health coaches in Pima county. 

This model will build navigator capacity through the development of two key resources:

  1. Comprehensive toolkit of social and health services in Pima County classified by zip code and district. 
  2. Navigator training to include topics such as Understanding Social Determinants of Health, Motivational Interviewing, Building Community Resilience and others! 

» Contact for more information on the Navigator training.

Navigator capacity

The AzCRH AHEAD initiative is committed to serving and supporting communities and populations across Arizona that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative addresses COVID-19 health and health related disparities* in myriad capacities including provision of public health training to tribal community health representatives, supporting rural and small libraries across the state to implement programming that addresses community health and well-being, collaboration with MOVE UP mobile health units to expand access to COVID-19 vaccination and testing to underserved and rural communities, education outreach to rural communities on substance use disorder/opioid use disorder (SUD/OUD), and the establishment of a practitioner-to-practitioner COVID-19 support line connecting rural healthcare providers with clinical experts. 

* Healthy People 2030 ( defines a health disparity as “a particular type of health difference that is linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage” that adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles of health. 

Mobile Outreach Vaccination Education for Underserved Populations (MOVE UP)
AHEAD and MOVE UP lead by Dr. Cecilia Rosales are removing the challenges that rural areas, communities of color, and underserved populations face when obtaining vaccines, such as transportation, access to sites, a lack of registration assistance, and language barriers. While fixed-site and drive-up COVID-19 vaccine points of distribution (POD) work in urban areas, AHEAD and MOVE UP reach farmers, truck drivers, and essential workers at their workplace in rural and border communities, lessening the concern of taking time off from their labor activities. Additionally, the teams are disseminating bilingual (Spanish/English) information through social media and visuals. 

Reflections on the COVID Response, Arizona Rural Health Conference

» Contact for more information on how to volunteer for MOVE UP.

Links to MOVE UP events and virtual sessions:

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)/Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented multiple challenges for people with SUD and OUD, people seeking treatment, and people in recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that while people with a SUD are more likely to require hospitalization and die from COVID-19than those without SUD, the rate is eight times higher for those diagnosed with a SUD during the pandemic. AHEAD is focused on connecting people with SUD/OUD to COVID-19 related, mental, and social services (e.g., vaccine, testing; transportation, housing aid) so they can continue their healing journey. Likewise, AHEAD is working with partners (e.g., Overdose Data to Action (OD2A), Rural Opioid Response Implementation (RORI), MOVE UP) to educate communities, including health workers and students, on the intersection between COVID-19 and SUD/OUD and factual evidence of COVID-19 vaccine. AHEAD is determined to rebuild confidence among people with SUD/OUD by working on stigma reduction. 

COVID-19 Toolkits & Resources

The Arizona Partnership for Immunization

NIH Community Engagement Alliance CEAL

De Beaumount Bold Solutions for Healthier Communities

Public Health Communication Collaborative

Covid-19 Toolkits- Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Made to Save- COVID-19 vaccines were made to save

Vaccine Confidence Toolkit

National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM)

National Foundation for Infectious Disease

COVID-19 Communication Network- John Hopkins

Rural Vaccine Confidence Initiative

COVID-19 Resources for Individuals with Disabilities

The Arc of Arizona

Rural Disability Hub (University of Montana)

AZ Developmental Disabilities Planning Council

COVID-19 Materials for People with IDD and Care Provides (CDC)

Supporting our Public Health and Healthcare Partners

Recognizing the plethora of infographics, tools and tips that are available on the web and the lack of time our public health leaders may have in sifting through this information, the AHEAD team continuously reviews resources and distills information that our partners may find useful. » See the Resources tab below.

Youth Public Health Champions Program:
This program will engage youth in a public health training module in partnership with existing youth summer programs. Youth will learn about basic public health interventions and appreciate the enormous, vital role public health has played in combating the effects of COVID-19 and its spread. 

The AHEAD team hosts a podcast series to highlight the innovative work being done in the state of Arizona by its own residents.

What is the hidden impact of COVID-19 in communities across the region and how are people helping to empower their own neighbors?  The AHEAD team speaks with subject matter experts, researchers, and community leaders to explore the narratives behind the good work being done to combat the global pandemic in our backyard. 

Schedule of Podcast Guests:

The AHEAD program partners with local public health and healthcare agencies in rural Arizona to support COVID-19 response and recovery activities. Our work ranges from addressing the needs of our partners by  connecting them with other agencies and resources, to developing and implementing education, outreach and communication materials to support the front lines.

Below are some of our partners who we collaborate with to achieve our mission:


Mona Arora

Mona Arora, PhD, MSPH
Assistant Research Professor
Program Manager, AHEAD AZ

Jennifer Peters

Jennifer Peters
Manager, State Office of Rural Health Program
Program Advisor, AHEAD AZ



Laura Schweers

Laura Schweers, MSW
Program Management Assistant, AHEAD AZ


Maria Rocio Torres

Maria Rocio Torres, MPH 
Program Management Assistant, AHEAD AZ





Sheryl Nelson

Sheryl Nelson
Project Management Assistant II