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New York REACH US Health Disparities Summit

Last week, Bronx Health REACH co-hosted its second annual New York REACH US Health Disparities Summit in downtown Manhattan. The two-day event was co-hosted by Bronx Health REACH and its sister REACH NY grantees: B Free CEED; the Brooklyn Perinatal Network; and the Communities Impact Diabetes Center. As REACH grantees, these four organizations invited their legacy grantees and community partners to attend the summit: Transforming Our Communities into Places of Health and Wellness. 100 attendees representing almost 50 organizations, agencies, and academic institutions heard speeches and panel discussions by leading researchers and practitioners in public health and attended skill-building workshops on grant-writing, evaluation, and dissemination.

Commander Graydon Yatabe, Acting Team Lead for Technical Assistance and Program Support for all REACH programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke about the role of legacy grantees in eliminating health disparities and how they were uniquely tied to the communities they worked in. Commander Yatabe highlighted the 162 REACH Legacy Communities around the country and pointed out how crucial they are in improving health outcomes in communities of color. The principal investigators of the NY REACH grantees also gave opening remarks and spoke of their programs’ efforts in addressing health disparities. The principal investigators for NY REACH grantees include: Dr. Neil Calman, Founder and CEO of the Institute for Family Health (Bronx Health REACH); Dr. Mariano Rey, Senior Associate Dean of the NYU School of Medicine and Director of the NYU Institute for Community Health and Research (B Free CEED); Ngozi Moses, Executive Director of Brooklyn Perinatal Network; and Dr. Carol Horowitz, Associate Professor of Health Evidence and Policy and Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Communities IMPACT Diabetes Center).

A summit highlight was the keynote address from Dr. Robert Fullilove on day one. Dr. Fullilove, the Associate Dean for Community and Minority Affairs and Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, spoke about the social determinants of health disparities and other factors, such as how the incarceration rates for men of color has led to the breakdown of community and slowed efforts to improve health. His passionate speech about the importance of community action, even when funds are limited, invigorated the audience and set the stage for the rest of the conference.

Day one of the summit closed with a panel discussion on transforming communities from the perspectives of policy-makers and community health advocates/activists. The panel included New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera; Javier Lopez, Director of the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health; Arlee Gist, Deputy Director of the Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities; Ngozi Moses, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Perinatal Network; and Rev. Dr. Bettye Muwwakkil, President of Prince George’s County Health Action Forum and team lead for the Maryland Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Action Institute. The panel was moderated by Kate MacKenzie, Director of Policy and Government Relations at City Harvest. All of the panelists spoke about their efforts to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes in their areas and gave their perspective on how communities and policymakers could work together to achieve greater impact. A highlight of the panel presentations were the successful strategies employed in getting policymakers to support community-led health initiatives.

Day two of the summit opened with a keynote address from Dr. John Chin, Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Planning at Hunter College, CUNY. Dr. Chin spoke about demanding health equity amidst growing inequality, giving examples of community groups that had affected change even in unfavorable circumstances. Dr. Chin’s work in the HIV field has been instrumental in informing his views on how community organizations can shape the public discourse and he encouraged the audience to speak up and to speak often about issues affecting the health of their neighborhoods. For the remainder of the summit, the participants had the opportunity to attend workshops on grant-writing, program evaluation, and effective dissemination strategies.

Bronx Health REACH would like to thank all of our attendees and speakers for making this year’s summit a great success. We look forward to continuing our work with our partners and grantees to achieve health equity. Special thanks to Health and Human Services Region II Office of Minority Health for hosting the event in their downtown Manhattan building.