Ideas sought for boosting health care access at PMC


MIDDLEBURY — Wanted: Ideas on how to give marginalized groups — such as migrant farm workers — better access to health care services in Addison County.

Porter Medical Center (PMC) officials are now making that pitch to area nonprofits, consultants and others who want to see the local health care system work better for everyone living and working in Addison County. And PMC will award grants ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 to the most promising proposals to address health inequities in our community that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grantees will use the money to refine their proposals for possible implementation — not only at Porter, but perhaps at other affiliate hospitals within the University of Vermont Health Network.

“We see this as an opportunity to support those who are already doing the work to increase equity within our community,” said Sylvie Choiniere, PMC’s Blueprint Program Manager.

A total of $150,000 in grant funding is being provided through the Vermont Public Health Institute and the Centers for Disease Control.

Choiniere and Courtney Thorn, PMC’s chronic disease self-management coordinator, noted groups that have been economically and socially marginalized experience disproportionate adverse health outcomes compared to non-marginalized populations. The pandemic has highlighted the many ways in which underserved populations experience inequities related to health care and social determinants of health, according to PMC officials.

And it’s not only about physical health, according to advocates. The pandemic has foisted additional challenges upon those experiencing mental health issues, such as increased social isolation, depression and stress.

Porter has deliberately assigned flexibility within the grant application/review process in an effort to encourage applicants to define what “better access” to health care means to them and the groups they’re trying to serve. In addition to migrant farm workers, those marginalized groups might include local people of color and folks identifying as LGBTQIA.

So, a successful grant application will define what health equity means to the marginalized group, while describing a process for bringing them into the health service structure.

“Some people might not seek care because they don’t feel heard or supported, or the language is not inclusive, or not understanding the language that’s being used in the health care system and across the board,” Choiniere said.

Thorn and Choiniere are hoping for a diverse collection of health equity grant proposals by the submission deadline, which is Dec. 9. A committee will review the applications around Dec. 20 with the intent of informing winners on Dec. 22. Grant recipients will have until May 31 to use the money.

Instructions and the application packet are available online at

Porter has been reaching out to prospective applicants largely through social media and its community partners, such as the United Way of Addison County.

While Thorn doesn’t anticipate a new round of health equity grants next year, she’s hoping this year’s winning proposals result in long-term trends of more people seeking out the care they need. 

To inquire about the grant or about participating in the application review process, contact Thorn at, or at (802) 388-8860. 

Reporter John Flowers is at

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