Collaboration among leading health organizations aims to advance access to health care in communities of color |

The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, and University of Michigan School of Public Health, in conjunction with Bank of America, announced on April 27 the launch of a flagship initiative on Health Equity, an impact-driven program to advance healthy outcomes for underresourced communities.

This four-year, $25 million initiative will initially launch in 11 cities: Albuquerque, NM; Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Memphis, TN; Philadelphia Cream; San Antonio; Saint Louis; and Washington, D.C.

As part of this effort, the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Diabetes Association will focus on three key areas: education and capacity building for health systems and partners; increasing access to health checks and preventive care; and advocating for greater health equity with national, local and state leaders.

“The lack of access, education and advocacy for communities of color has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, exposing historic systemic shortcomings in American health care,” said D. Steve Boland, Director administration of Bank of America. “Some communities of color are experiencing shorter life expectancies of 20 years or more due in large part to historical policies and inherited systems that impact equitable health care opportunities. Addressing barriers to health equity is a critical step in helping communities move forward and achieve true economic mobility.

Charles D. Henderson, director of development for the American Diabetes Association. “Having access to health care should be a human right, regardless of race, income, zip code, age, education or gender. Health inequities are evident and pervasive, contributing to poorer outcomes and higher risk of diabetes and many other diseases. Now is the time for action, and there are no better health organizations than the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society to move the needle and drive change.

“The data tells us that the same factors that align with health equity are directly related to economic mobility. Structural racism, quality educational opportunities, affordable housing and transportation, and secure employment with fair pay and sick leave directly impact access to needed preventative resources and quality health care to improve outcomes in these communities,” said Tawana Thomas-Johnson, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at the American Cancer Society. “It is a moral imperative that we work with communities to address these health needs and improve public policies to ensure no one is disadvantaged based on who they are or where they live.”

To further expand this work, the University of Michigan School of Public Health will measure progress and impact on health outcomes through robust evaluation as part of the initiative.

“Health equity is at the heart of everything we do in public health,” said DuBois Bowman, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “It is critical that we work in partnership with communities to deliver health-focused programming. In doing so, we must be able to determine measures of success, assess whether we are meeting those benchmarks, and adjust our approaches as needed to achieve our ultimate goals of improving health and equity. We also need to document what we learn, both successes and challenges, to support wide-scale adoption. We are excited to work alongside Bank of America and leading health agencies nationwide to help identify ways to have a lasting impact on the health of communities across the country.

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