National Black Clergy and Medical Leaders from ‘Choose Healthy Life’ Meet with HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra to Discuss Role of the Black Church in Addressing Health Equity, Opportunities for Improving Health Outcomes for Communities of Color
Following Meeting, Rev. Al Sharpton, Debra Fraser-Howze, and Rev. Calvin O. Butts III Say They Are “Encouraged” and “Moved” By the Secretary’s Commitment to Health Equity, Addressing Health Disparities for Diseases like Obesity and Diabetes that Disproportionately Impact Black Americans
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, leaders from Choose Healthy Life’s National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council and Medical Advisory Board met with U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and other members of the administration to discuss a shared commitment to addressing the racial disparities in health outcomes. As a result of systemic barriers and discriminatory healthcare policies, Black communities have continued to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and have higher-than-average rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
During the meeting — hosted by HHS’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships — leaders from Choose Healthy Life including Founder Debra Fraser-Howze and Co-Chairs Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Calvin O. Butts III outlined short- and long-term opportunities for HHS to collaborate with Black churches in their efforts to expand its efforts to address diseases that affect communities of Color. Choose Healthy Life proposed different initiatives and funding opportunities for HHS to funnel its resources, aimed at advancing local leaders in the fight to reduce health disparities. The meeting represents the start of an important dialogue between Choose Healthy Life and HHS about how they can address health equity both now and in the future.
Several of the Choose Healthy Life leaders who participated in today’s meeting shared responses
Debra Fraser-Howe, Founder of Choose Healthy Life: “Today reaffirmed HHS Sec. Becerra’s commitment to supporting us in the fight to address health inequities that impact America’s most marginalized and vulnerable communities. I’m proud of the progress that Choose Healthy Life has made to improve health outcomes in the Black community, and grateful that the Secretary and his team are as committed to improving health outcomes for the Black community as we are. The success of today’s meeting demonstrates the progress we can make with the right partners.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, Co-Chair of Choose Healthy Life: “Our agenda today signified that our government officials are willing to take action alongside community organizations to protect Black health. Choose Healthy Life is about addressing all determinants of health — including access to vaccinations, healthy food, wellness education, and medical treatment — to help reduce health disparities. We are encouraged and moved by Sec. Becerra’s efforts to improve healthcare for communities of Color, and his willingness to continue collaborating with and working alongside groups like Choose Healthy Life as we work to improve health outcomes.”
Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Co-Chair of Choose Healthy Life: “I’m deeply honored by the privilege to sit and speak with Sec. Becerra and members of the administration about health matters especially as they impact the Black community, and all communities. Choose Healthy Life has been an essential response to the dire circumstances the Black community finds itself in once again. Facing an inadequate healthcare system, African Americans are turning once again to their battle-tested, citadel of hope: the Black church. We have collaborated with the finest minds and hearts in our country to reverse the health disparities that have taken such an awesome toll on us. Our work has been conceived in faith, based on science, and watered with the tears of a praying people. We extend our outstretched hands to this national administration and offer our partnership, our trust, and our strength. Thank you again, Sec. Becerra for hosting us today, receiving us today, and hearing us today.”
Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services: “Addressing health inequities is central to achieving the goals of both Choose Healthy Life and HHS. Improving the health of all Americans must include improved access to healthcare treatments and knowledge of diseases in Black and Latino communities who have been too long underserved. With Secretary Becerra’s support, Choose Healthy Life and hundreds of Black churches across the country will be one step closer to rooting out the endemic causes of unequal health outcomes once and for all.”
In addition to the work Choose Healthy Life is doing on-the-ground in communities across the country — cultivating a faith-based, health workforce that has administered nearly 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines and tests in hard-to-reach communities — the leaders of Choose Healthy Life have been at the forefront in driving a larger conversation on the need for “a national reckoning around health equity,” as argued in a recent op-ed they authored for USA Today:
“Black people continue to die from COVID-19 at a rate nearly double the white population in large measure because of preexisting health conditions and low vaccination rates. Our population stands directly at the nexus of both a pandemic and an epidemic – an epidemic of health disparities that includes obesity, hypertension and diabetes – creating a rippling of consequences that threatens the livelihood of the Black community and will continue taking Black lives for years to come. Everyone keeps saying, ‘We can’t wait for things to get back to normal,’ and we say, ‘We’re not going back to normal. We died in normal.’”
More information about Choose Healthy Life can be found at www.choosehealthylife.org.
About Choose Healthy Life: Choose Healthy Life (CHL) is a Black church initiative that ensures churches – the oldest and most trusted institutions in the Black community – receive the necessary resources, training, and support to address COVID-19, other health disparities and to deliver preventive wellness programs. CHL initially established a network of fifty (50) Black churches in five major cities – including New York – and grew to 120 churches across 13 states. The success of the program is centered around the establishment of faith-based community health workforce in the church. In its first year, CHL hosted over 2,200 events, administered over 90,000 COVID-19 tests and vaccinations through its churches.