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  • Shelly Wong

It Takes A Village Commits to Supporting the Medically Underserved

By Shelly Wong


Portrait Gallery: Left to Right

Top Row: Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital, Zuckerberg SF General Emergency Department wearking ITAV Bryn Walker Face Masks

Middle Row: UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Healthright 360 SFO

Bottom Row: Mission Health Center SF, Chinese Hospital SF, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center San Jose


The novel coronavirus has peeled back the band-aid and shown us the weakness in the U.S. medical system. As we started our journey to make and donate PPE, we tried to make sense of the shortfalls and worked to help those with the greatest need. Now that we are in a continuing crisis as Covid19 cases and hospitalizations increase again, we find a bottomless need for the PPE we are providing.


Joan Lasselle and I partner to identify which hospitals are in the most need of our donations. Our first week, we called a list of 25 hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not everyone would take fabric masks and/or face shields, but some were eager to take any form of PPE. We surmised that the hospitals that would take anything, had the most need because they had the lowest resources. That is where we chose to donate.


We responded organically to the need as Covid hot spots spread. In March and April, San Francisco’s Mission District with a high concentration of low income, primarily Latino community members showed increasing cases and hospitalizations, so we focused our donations on Zuckerberg SF General and Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Chinese Hospital requested PPE early because of their vulnerable populations of elderly Asian in San Francisco living in SRO’s (single room occupancy) housing. In late May, as cases increased in the Fruitvale district of Oakland and Hayward, we started pouring donations into Alameda Health Systems and Alameda Health Consortium. As we gave over the months, we developed our mission.


It Takes A Village is an inclusive community of volunteers that creates and delivers PPE into the hands of health care workers who serve the medically underserved throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.


Who is medically underserved? It wasn’t until we hit our 25,000 mask mark that we calculated the focus of our donations. Ninety-five percent of our donations have been made to Safety Net Hospitals or Federally Qualified Health Centers.


We have donated to 11 hospitals that make up the 21 safety net hospitals in the state of California. These 21 hospitals are 6% of all the hospitals in California but provide care for 80% of the state's population. Forty percent of their total hospital services are for uninsured patients and 35% is for Medicaid Patients. (1) The legal mandate of Safety Net Hospitals is to serve all populations regardless of insurance status. These hospitals typically serve a higher population of uninsured, Medicaid, Medicare (elderly), Children’s Health Insurance Program, low income and other vulnerable populations including immigrants and homeless. (1) Eighty percent of Zuckerberg SF General’s population, for instance, is either under federally paid insurance (Medicaid or Medicare) or uninsured. (2) At Alameda Health System, the majority of their patients are either of African American or Latino descent and 40% of their patient population is under Medicaid or medicare. (3) 85% of Healthright 360’s community are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity and poverty.


The list of safety net hospitals that we have donated to include:


Alameda Health System

  • Alameda Hospital

  • Fairmont Hospital

  • Highland Hospital

  • John George Psychiatric Hospital

  • San Leandro Hospital

City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health

  • Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center

  • Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center


Santa Clara Valley Medical Center


UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, SF and Oakland

UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion


Our remaining list of donees is primarily represented by Federally Qualified Health Centers, which meet federally mandated requirements to provide care to a medically underserved population. Reimbursements are primarily through Medicaid.

Our health center donees include:

  • Mission Neighborhood Health Center

  • Alameda Health Consortium

  • Healthright 360

  • Home Bridge


It is hard to digest, in fact it is downright scary, the situation that we are in. The lowest resourced centers are handling the majority of Covid cases. From a May 21, 2020 Sutter Health Northern California Study “Sutter Health Study Shines Light on Covid-19 racial disparities” https://news.sutterhealth.org/2020/05/21/study-shines-light-on-covid-19-racial-disparities/


Evidence is mounting that racial and ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups are bearing a disproportionate burden of illness and death.”


We have firmly embraced the challenge of giving to the medically underserved: defined as uninsured and low income populations, of whom a disproportionate number are Black or Latino. The eye opener is how large a population that is, even in the wealthy San Francisco Bay Area.


When we started our journey with our first goal of 1,000 face masks and 500 face shields, you could say we were going to feel good about our donation. As we moved into making and giving, the world shook under our feet as we realized the enormity of the need. To date, we have donated 21,100 fabric face masks, 6,400 KN95 masks and 9,500 clear plastic face shields. Now you know where these donations are going to, what populations they serve, and how severely they are needed.


Our pledge to our Villagers who are working tirelessly cutting, sewing, making face shields and driving, is that our donations really do count. They really do make a difference. If we are not donating, our donees cannot merely buy PPE. They do not have the resources. They would not be masking, and they would not be helping to save lives.


  1. Safety Net Wikipedia

  2. Zuckerberg SF General Wikipedia

  3. Alameda Health System Wikipedia


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