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

» 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:


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




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.

Community Public Health Champions Program:
This program will train community representatives – leaders of local businesses, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations – on strategies for building community resilience. In addition to supporting these leaders to work within their own communities to develop a layer of resilience to current and future public health challenges, these champions will reinforce the critical role public health plays in bolstering their communities. 

Contact for more information on the Champions Program.

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.

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