Khadija Gurnah is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.
There are a number of cultural, language, and financial barriers that prevent the traditional government messaging and resource dissemination strategies from reaching the Muslim community. These barriers vary greatly with each local community, as Muslim Americans represent diverse socioeconomic strata, immigration statuses, cultures, ethnicities, languages, histories, and religious approaches and interpretations. Assistance that is tailored to these diverse needs is critical to any effective public health initiative in the Muslim community.
American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) is a national, non-profit organization of American Muslims in health professions. During the last period of Open Enrollment, our goal was to cater to the needs of the uninsured Muslim population by promoting awareness of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
To achieve this, we had a two-pronged approach to outreach. At a grassroots level, we implemented enrollment campaigns in individual states. At a national level, we served as a resource for information and coordinated National Muslim Enrollment Weekend with a coalition of Muslim organizations.
At a grassroots level, we recruited “Community Liaisons” in seven states. The liaisons worked with their local faith communities to host enrollment and outreach events. We recognized that our communities needed cultural ambassadors to encourage their local faith communities to host events. Our most effective cultural ambassadors were recent graduates from health fields. They were excited, passionate, and well-established within their communities. AMHP also supported volunteers and partner organizations across the nation by connecting them with local Navigators and providing resources such as event planning guides, outreach materials tailored to Muslim communities, flyers, sign-up sheets, and a Jumah Khutba guide for imams to discuss the Affordable Care Act during sermons.
We established a clear tracking plan to help us keep metrics on outreach. We sent out a very simple form to anyone who planned to host an enrollment event. We also followed up afterward with another form. The form tracked attendance and enrollment and included a thank you to everyone for their time and commitment. We used the tracking form to update an online events page that allowed people to find enrollment events in their area.
We were also part of a national coalition of Muslim organizations that facilitated national Muslim Enrollment weekend. Together, we rolled out the first national health campaign targeting the Muslim community. We partnered with amazing facilitators at Get Covered America and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to reach as many Muslim Americans as possible.
We were met with overwhelming support from the Muslim community. Over the course of the enrollment period, we made contact with 27,116 people and enrolled 1,662 people in high-quality, affordable health insurance plans.
As we prepare for the next enrollment period, we are looking forward to building upon our existing infrastructure to reach new communities across the nation. It is an honor to be part of this moment in our nation’s history and to help address the needs of our nation’s uninsured.
Khadija Gurnah is the Program Manager for the American Muslim Health Professionals’ Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment efforts.