Contact Us

WOU Community Health + Polk County COVID-19 Project

Megan Patton-Lopez

PhD, RDN, Project Co-Director

Email: pattonlm@wou.edu

Emily Vala-Haynes

PhD, MPH, Project Co-Director

Email: valahaynese@wou.edu

We work to engage with community members and provide the information they need to stay safe during the pandemic. Our team attends multiple outreach events where we provide contact tracing and COVID-19 safety guidelines information, as well as safety supplies for the community.

Vaccine Outreach in Our Community

Our Community Outreach Events

October 11, 2021: Oregon Public Health Association: Poster Session

Our team presented two posters at the Oregon Public Health Association this year to highlight our work with the bilingual Family Thrive Kits and the Data Briefs.

August-September, 2021:Fall Latinx Family Thrive Kit Distribution

We distributed 800 newsletters and kits to families in Polk County.  

Jenny, Megan, Fabi, and Jesus giving away free materials and handouts to community members who got vaccinated.

June 29 / July 2, 3, & 21, 2021: Central High School Vaccine Clinic 

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Jenny, Megan, and Queenie giving away t-shirts and masks, and stickers to vaccainted students, 

June 2, 2021: WOUWOU Vaccine Incentive Table Eventon WOU Campus

May 27, 2021: Academic Excellence Showcase Plenary Session

Our team presented at the Academic Excellence Showcase Plenary Session and shared the many things our team has accomplished as well as lessons learned.

May 27, 2021: Academic Excellence Showcase: Poster Session

Our team presented two posters at the Academic Excellence Showcase this year to highlight major parts of our project.

MAY 19, 2021:Latinx Family Spring Newsletter and Kit Distribution

We distributed 1,000 newsletters and vegetable starting kits to families in Polk County. 

Karissa, Sarah, Queenie, Mariana, Jackie, and Sonia distributing handouts and free items.

April 24, 2021:Polk County Free Clinic Event

Rin and Jesus (not pictured) distributing the spring older adults kits and the March family thrive kits in Grand Ronde.

March 12, 2021: Older adult kit & family thrive kit distribution at the Grand Ronde Food Pantry

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March 5, 2021:Older adult winter newsletter distribution 

We distributed over 1,000 older adults newsletters and 120 flower starting kits to individuals all over Polk County. 

January 28, 2021: Monmouth / Independence Rotary Club Meeting

We shared updates about our project and discussed information regarding vaccines and the new COVID-19 variant.

January 22, 2021: Family kit distribution at the Grand Ronde Food Pantry

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December 29, 2020: Volunteering at Testing Event at Polk County Fairgrounds

December 11, 2020: Food box distribution at Ash Creek Elementary

Jenny Leon-Perez, Samantha Harris, and Sonia Castaneda Felix at the October screening event.

October 24, 2020: Public health screenings

Our team provided child and adult reusable and disposable face masks to Polk county members. We also distributed educational handouts and educated community members on contact tracing and general COVID-19 information.

Jenny Leon-Perez distributing our Latinx newsletter and safety supplies during the Salem Dream Center event.

September 21, 2020: Salem Dream Center

Our team provided hand soap, masks, and activities for children to Polk County members. We also shared informational handouts while educating county members about contact tracing and general COVID-19 knowledge.

Jenny Leon-Perez, Gaby Esquivel, and Mariana Guerrero at the Colonia Amistad testing event.

August 26, 2020: Colonia Amistad testing event

We handed out safety supplies and educational handouts while informing Latinx community members and families about COVID-19 transmission and contact tracing information.

October 11, 2020: Oregon Public Health Association: Panel Presentation

Our team presented a panel presentation at OPHA to highlight our project, the needs of entry level public health workers through the lens of the Polk County Health Department, and our preliminary results of student exit surveys.

Jackie distributing materials at the Family Building Blocks vaccine event.

September 11, 2021: Vaccine Event Family Building Blocks Vaccine Event

June 15, 2021:Latinx Family Thrive Kit Distribution to the Central School District

We distributed an additional 80 newsletters and kits for a Spanish speaking Family Event at Central School District.  

June 1, 2021: Our team presented about our project and the federal aid student receive through three rounds of federal COVID relief to the House Education Committee. 

Sarah, Queenie, & Jesus (not pictured) handing out newsletters and kits.

May 28, 2021:Latinx Family & Older Adult Newsletter Distribution in Grand Ronde

MAY 19, 2021:Older Adult spring newsletter and kit distribution

We distributed over 1,000 newsletters and 200 rock painting kits to individuals all over Polk County. 

May 14, 2021: OSU Class Presentation

Our team did a presentation and activity on health literacy and communication for a Spanish “Salud y Migración” OSU class taught by Dr. Daniel López-Cevallos.

April/May, 2020: WOU Student Vaccine Campaign

Our team distributed many educational resources throughout the WOU Community to educate students on COVID-19 vaccines and encourage students to get vaccinated.

Sarah, Karissa, and Jenny passing out door hangers.

April 9, 2021: 2021Vaccine door hangers county wide distribution

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March 11, 2021:Family kit distribution

500 family kits were distributed to twelve community partners in Polk County. 

February 5, 2021: La Junta Comunitaria

A few of our team members gave a presentation during a Spanish community meeting via zoom and Facebook live. We shared information about our project, discussed what contact tracing is and what we do to help keep our community well informed with accurate and accessible information.

January 26, 2021:Testing event at Polk County Fairgrounds

January 5, 6, & 7, 2021: WOU Athletics COVID-19 Prevention Presentation

December 18, 2020: Food box distribution at Ash Creek Elementary


Dr. Megan Patton-Lopez, Dr. Emily Vala-Haynes, and Sonia Castaneda Felix help out at Polk County Fairgrounds.

December 10, 2020: Testing at Polk County Fairgrounds

October 27, 2020: Rotary Club Meeting

We shared updates about our project and talked about general COVID-19 information and contact tracing.

October 12, 2020: Oregon Public Health Association Conference

Our team was invited to participate and present a poster in the annual Oregon Public Health Association conference, where our poster won the Outstanding Student Poster Award. Our poster shared updates about the current work of our project in the community.

Rachel Koljesky handing out new student welcome kits at the WOU Move In Days event.

September 23 – 26, 2020: WOU Move-In

We volunteered at the WOU Move-In event to complete health screenings for all students and guests moving into the residents halls.

August 6, 2020: Rotary Club Meeting

We shared updates about our project and talked about general COVID-19 information and contact tracing.

Populations We Serve 

Latinx and K-3 Families

  • The Latinx community is at greater risk for COVID-19, according to the Oregon Health Authority (2020) about 40% of COVID-19 cases are Hispanic. This population also has a lower education completion level, which is associated with lower health literacy levels and results in a lack of education or confusion around COVID-19 knowledge.
  • The language barrier is one of the most frequent challenges this community faces. Limited access to materials or services in their native language leads to lack of credible and easy to understand information. This population also tends to have demanding, lower paying jobs or occupations with no benefits or supports. Individuals are unable to take time off work due to financial needs and this increases their chances of being exposed to the virus.
  • Lack of health insurance, access and utilization also places this community at a higher risk for COVID-19. Even though people may be eligible for health insurance there are still factors such as distrust in the healthcare system, lack of transportation, language barriers and cultural differences that affect people’s willingness to seek care.

Older Adults

  • The older adult population is at greater risk for a severe COVID-19 illness, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions. This risk increases with age and means that a person with COVID-19 may require hospital care or a ventilator. According to the Oregon Health Authority (2020), older adults are much more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19.
  • Older adults are also more likely to be isolated during this time. Without work, restricted family visitation, and many organizations temporarily not meeting in person, older adults tend to be more isolated from the community. Isolation increases feelings of loneliness and can increase negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. We are working with this population to provide clear and current COVID-19 information, and address mental health concerns.

WOU Students, Faculty, & Staff 

  • Individuals ages 20-29 currently have the highest case rate of COVID-19 in Oregon. People in this age group are less likely to show symptoms of COVID-19 and therefore more likely to spread the disease. Younger adults may perceive they are at less risk and are more likely to attend social gatherings and venture into society as it reopens.

Our team is working to address the unique needs of each population and provide each community with informational materials that are culturally diverse and appropriate, to improve understanding and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our team is working to provide appropriate COVID-19 information, increasing prevention behaviors in the community.