Advancing Health Equity, Addressing Disparities (AHEAD AZ)

Community working together

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.

    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

    » Upcoming COVID Grand Rounds CME webinar: Tuesday, September 20th from 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM, featuring Dr. Andrea Kattah who will be presenting "COVID-19 and the Kidneys: Current State of the Evidence".

    Registration is required, see flyer for details. You can also register here

    » Request copies of our print resources listed below by submitting this request form.

    » Announcing our inaugural purpose, engagement and socialization (PES) placemat, developed in collaboration with School for Seniors. To request copies to share with partners in your community, please contact Laura Schweers (

    » The AHEAD team is looking for success stories and best practices that highlight all the hard work our partners are doing in communities around our state. Please use this link to submit a story that you think is worth sharing with partners statewide. We will include these practices in our monthly newsletters.

    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:

    AHEAD Team

    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

    Michelle Moore

    Michelle Moore, MS, MPH
    Program Management Assistant, AHEAD AZ


    Laura Schweers

    Laura Schweers, MSW
    Program Management Assistant, AHEAD AZ


    Maria Rocio Torres

    Maria Rocio Torres, MPH 
    Program Management Assistant, AHEAD AZ



    Loren Halili

    Loren Halili
    Program Coordinator


    Libia Alexandra Keeme

    Libia Alexandra Keeme
    Administrative Support Assistant II


    Sheryl Nelson

    Sheryl Nelson
    Project Management Assistant II






    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 that have been affected disproportionally during the COVID-19 pandemic across Arizona. One of the components of AHEAD’s mission is community outreach to address vaccine education and hesitancy, especially among communities that are at higher-risk for COVID-19, including but not limited to, Hispanic/Latino persons, African American persons, Native America persons, people who are medically disadvantaged, and people with substance and opioid use disorder.  

    We have the tools to fight against COVID-19 (vaccine, testing, masking, social distancing). The COVID-19 vaccine is our best shot to prevent severe illness, hospitalizations, and death from this disease. However, some of our communities are unfamiliar and concerned with the safety, effectiveness, and efficacy of the vaccine and other mitigation efforts. AHEAD aims to develop and build vaccine-trust in our Arizonan communities by disseminating simple, evidence-based messaging and combating misinformation. 

    AHEAD in collaboration with community partners is reaching out to underserved and rural communities to improve access to vaccine services and education. 

    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. 

    » 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

    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. 

    Contact Loren Halili for more information on the Champions Program.

    Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the role of libraries and their staff in linking individuals, neighborhoods, and communities with much needed information, resources, and services, this initiative seeks to collaborate with rural libraries in efforts that further promote local resilience, address inequities, and build community cohesion through capacity-building and training. Using a two-pronged approach, the Center is partnering with the Arizona Library Association to deliver a webinar training series and administer a mini-grant opportunity for small and rural libraries across Arizona. Trainings feature topics such as fundamentals of public health, cultural humility, disaster response, addressing misinformation, and climate change adaptation and resilience. The mini-grant opportunity will fund selected proposals that support programming in the priority areas of health and well-being, improving access to health care and related services, and meeting patron needs related to the social determinants of health.

    Contact for more information on AZ Librarians Enhancing Resilient Rural Communities.

    Coming Soon!

    The AHEAD team will be hosting a monthly 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 will speak 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:

    • TBD

    To submit Podcast topic suggestions or questions for our upcoming speakers, please email