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Top Civil Rights, Health Equity Leaders Launch New National Coalition Focused on Eliminating Barriers to Healthcare for Communities of Color, Addressing Disparities in Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases

Co-Chairs of the Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease Reveal First-Year Initiative Will Focus on Obesity, Leading the Fight to Modernize Outdated Medicare Policies that Restrict Access to Care and Treatment for Communities of Color

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some of the nation’s most prominent, respected leaders in civil rights, equity, and health care today announced the launch of the Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease (HECCD), a new nationwide, 501(c)(4) coalition focused on eliminating barriers to healthcare for communities of color disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases like obesity. Coalition members include a number of respected, high-profile advocacy leaders like the National Action Network (NAN), Choose Healthy Life, Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), among others. The coalition — which was formed out of a shared desire to advance health equity through facilitating a collaborative, cross-sector effort — will bring together community experts, policymakers, providers, and other stakeholders to collectively work to eliminate barriers to health care. In the beginning, HECCD will turn its attention to solutions with immediate impacts on people of color, many of whom are dependent on public programs with outdated coverage policies that restrict access to care.

The coalition’s three co-chairs also announced the coalition’s first-year initiative will focus on obesity and leading the fight to modernize outdated Medicare policies that restrict access to obesity care and treatment for communities dependent on public programs. By addressing obesity first, HECCD hopes to get to the root of many other associated health risks:

Co-Chair Tammy Boyd (Black Women’s Health Imperative): “Historic inaction on obesity and chronic disease have led Black women to have the highest rate of obesity compared to any other racial or ethnic group. By focusing our first-year initiative on leading the fight to modernize outdated Medicare policies – which have an enormous impact on the health of Black women – the Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease will give voice to over a hundred million Black and brown Americans who face countless systemic barriers to healthcare, and who are without access to the care and treatment they deserve.”

Co-Chair Dr. Gary A. Puckrein (National Minority Quality Forum): “Our current policies are grossly out of step with science and the overwhelming consensus from the medical community that obesity is a complex, treatable, and serious disease. If Congress and the Biden administration are committed to their promises to advance racial equity, fixing these policies is a key first step. These simple changes would have an immediate impact and help eliminate the ripple effect of negative health outcomes and premature death for people of color living with obesity.”

Co-Chair Dr. Elena Rios (National Hispanic Medical Association): “For too long, chronic diseases — obesity in particular — have been lowering the quality of life and causing suffering for Latinx communities across the country. Despite being a preventable and treatable disease, obesity affects nearly 1-in-3 Americans — and affects Black and Latino adults at a higher rate. Two years into a pandemic that disproportionately impacted communities of Color, it’s past time our collective focus shifts to advancing health equity in a meaningful way. I’m proud to help lead the effort that will finally shift our focus toward spurring action.”

First-Year Initiative: Obesity Care Now

Obesity is an epidemic that disproportionately impacts communities of color. Currently, 80% of Black women, nearly half of all Black Americans, and 44.8% of Latinx Americans live with obesity. American Indians and Alaska Natives are also 50% more likely than white Americans to live with obesity, and those numbers are growing across the board. As a result, communities of color nationwide are at higher risk for many of the leading causes of death like heart disease, stroke, cancer, and COVID-19, all of which are related to obesity. For Asian Americans, new studies are just now revealing the serious health disparities among subgroups that were previously masked by aggregation.

As we mark a year since President Biden’s mandate to address nationwide racial disparities (including disparities in healthcare), and in the wake of the President’s recent remarks prioritizing advanced research on obesity, diabetes, and cancer, the Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease is announcing it will focus its first-year initiative on curbing one of the leading diseases impacting Black and brown communities nationwide: Obesity. The coalition’s Obesity Care Now initiative will focus on accelerating efforts to modernize outdated Medicare coverage policies that restrict access to obesity care and treatment for communities of color.

Despite being a preventable and treatable disease, obesity continues to cause destructive health consequences across communities of color. Currently, outdated Medicare laws put comprehensive care out of reach for people living with obesity by excluding FDA-approved anti-obesity medications from Medicare Part D coverage. As a result of these discriminatory Medicare policies – that remain out of step with the consensus of the broader medical community – many people of color, who are dependent on Medicareand living with obesity, are unable to access the care and treatment they need.

The Obesity Care Now initiative will raise awareness about obesity as an epidemic and a dire health equity issue, and will also work closely alongside coalition partners to engage leaders on Capitol Hill and across the Biden Administration. Through the initiative, the coalition will amplify the voices of those who are impacted, illuminate new data and evidence that underscores the dire nature of the issue, and further highlight the urgency around ensuring obesity care and the treatment of chronic diseases are prioritized both legislatively and administratively.

Coalition Member Organizations

While the coalition plans to continue growing and adding new members in the coming weeks and months, the current roster of members includes: Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC); Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI); Choose Healthy Life; Council on Black Health (CBH); League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Movement is Life; National Action Network (NAN); National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN); National Black Leadership Commission on Health (NBLCH) National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA); and National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF).

To request an interview with the co-chairs of the Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease, please contact Sanjali De Silva at For more information about the coalition, visit

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The Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease (HECCD) believes that all people deserve the best possible health care. Continuing to allow outdated coverage policies to restrict access for communities dependent on public programs is counter to the principles of health equity. The Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease’s mission is to ensure that community experts, policy makers, providers, and other stakeholders work together to eliminate barriers to healthcare for communities of color, especially as related to access to care and treatment for obesity and other chronic diseases. Learn more at


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