Realizing Health Equity: Walking the Talk – Watch our video
The American Heart Association’s June 2018 Northeast Health Equity Consortium brought together medical professionals, public health experts and community leaders to examine health equity in our diverse communities. Nearly 150 people attended from the northeast and across the country. Their commitment to equity in health care was evident by their attendance and enthusiastic participation in the summit.
Summit Chair, Marcus M. McKinney, D. Min., LPC, said that a key goal of the AHA’s Northeast Health Equity Consortium “is to move us from what we do, from research to action—by developing and disseminating approaches for improving quality and identifying and addressing all disparities in health care regionally, and locally. Our solutions must be local and relevant…informed by our remarkably diverse communities…to move closer toward achieving equity in health in every neighborhood.” The summit was the first of its kind hosted by the Founders Affiliate American Heart Association to bring together community partners to discuss and collaborate with the intention of achieving health equity
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Heather Kinder, the executive vice president of the American Heart Association’s Founders Affiliate, opened the summit by explaining its purpose. The goal, she said, is to bring people together who care about healthy equity to discuss how addressing social factors, such as education, income and race, can reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease. “We know that place matters. Where you live, work and play can impact your quality of life, your longevity,” said Kinder, who also urged attendees to take what they learn and apply it to the communities they serve.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also spoke, calling health care inequality “one of the biggest challenges” facing America today. He highlighted steps Hartford has taken in recent years to fight childhood obesity, such as Hartford Food System’s “Little City Sprouts” garden-based food education program and the city’s expansion of recreational staff for early child care programs.
Northeast Health Equity Consortium (NHEC) Co-chairs Raheem Baraka, Chien-Chi Huang, and Lenny Lopez, also shared their thoughts. Baraka, the executive director and founder of Baraka Community Wellness, a Boston nonprofit running health and well-being programs to help families in low-income communities, called health equity “a right, not a privilege.” He said there are too many parts of the country in which where you live determines how long you live, noting that in some cities life expectancy gaps between neighborhoods can be as high as 30 years. Huang, director of Asian Women for Health in Boston, urged the attendees to remove “cultural and language barriers” within their own organizations to achieving healthy equity. Lopez, a professor and chief of hospital medicine at the University of California San Francisco, stressed the importance of listening to the community when making decisions that could impact a region’s healthy equity.
The chair of the summit, Marcus McKinney, president of Reimagining Care in Hartford, challenged the attendees to turn their research into action. I can say, without question, I love this community we’re serving,” he said. “There are incredible assets, but at night there is pain. People are not receiving the same access or getting the same outcomes.”
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Dr. Luella “Toni” Lewis
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