Three champions of health equity to co-chair.

 New York November 2017The Northeast Health Equity Consortium (NHEC), which addresses health inequities and disparities in eight states – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont –has announced the appointment of three new co-chairs for 2017-2018.  Raheem Baraka, ACE-CPT, BCS, founder and executive director of Baraka Community Wellness in Boston, MA; Chien-Chi Huang, executive director of Asian Women for Health in Boston, MA; and, Lenny Lopez, MD, MDiv, MPH, senior faculty at the Disparities Solutions Center, Chief of Hospital Medicine and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Baraka’s nonprofit community-based organization strives to close the gap on health disparities and reduce healthcare costs as they relate to preventable chronic diseases within vulnerable and at-risk populations. Specific to its mission, Baraka Community Wellness engages, educates and empowers at-risk individuals and communities through programs developed and implemented that address the social and behavioral determinants. Baraka is actively involved in population health and prevention activities within Boston and throughout New England. In addition to co-chairing NHEC, he is a delegate for Food Solutions New England and is a Healthy Boston Ambassador for a joint project with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH), and a board member of Health Care Without Harm, a global NGO. “I am honored to be a part of AHA’s Northeast Health Equity Consortium to lend practical insight to closing the gap of health disparities in a way that is meaningful, measurable, and impactful.”

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Huang is a skilled and passionate community advocate who founded the Asian Breast Cancer Project. Prior to her current position as the Executive Director of Asian Women for Health – a peer-led, community-based organization dedicated to advancing Asian women’s health and wellness through education, advocacy and support — she spearheaded several new health initiatives addressing the unique issues and challenges facing the Asian American community. “As a peer health educator working with underserved, under-resourced communities, I have seen how cultural and language barriers can prevent minorities – and especially women of color – form accessing critical information, treatment and support. “NHEC can facilitate transformative changes, enhancing equitable access to healthcare,” said Huang. “It is a great privilege to serve as co-chair, and I look forward to identifying and providing resources to support those who work with the most vulnerable populations.”

Lopez is an internist trained at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), who completed the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Minority Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and a Hospital Medicine fellowship at BWH. Dr. Lopez joined the Mongan Institute for Health Policy in 2008 after his research fellowship in General Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and was an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical school until 2015. With a goal of reducing healthcare disparities in cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, his current research addresses the issues relating to patient safety and language barriers, optimizing primary care clinical services for Latinos with cultural and linguistic barriers and using health information technology to decrease disparities. A second line of research is investigating the epidemiology of acculturation among Latinos in the US and its impact on the prevalence and development of cardiovascular diseases and Type II diabetes, Dr. Lopez received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania; and he received a Master of Divinity and a Master of Public Health from Harvard University. “The NHEC is poised to make a significant contribution in uniting local and regional efforts in the Northeast to eliminate disparities in cardiovascular health in a way that is sustainable and meaningful in the long term.  We seek to unite a broad coalition across racial/ethnic groups, urban/rural locations, and importantly to engage local and state legislative and policy leaders in creating laws and regulations that focus on making ALL communities heart healthy.  We owe it to ourselves and we owe to our communities.”

The NHEC, which focuses on primordial and primary prevention; systems of, and delivery of care; social determinants of health; patient-centered outcomes research, community engagement, and community-based participatory research, was established by the American Heart Association with the generous support of the Aetna Foundation in 2016.