Media Contact: Anne Smith The TASC Group Phone: 917-751-4839

Choose Healthy Life and the United Way of New York City Receive $9.9 Million Grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to Expand Black Church-Based COVID-19 Outreach Initiative in 13 States and the District of Columbia

Choose Healthy Life, which has an established network of Black churches to fight COVID-19 and other health disparities in the Black community, will expand its reach from 50 churches in five cities to approximately 100 churches across 13 states and D.C.

NEW YORK – June 17, 2021: Choose Healthy Life and United Way of New York City (UWNYC) announced they are the recipients of a $9.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support and expand Choose Healthy Life’s (CHL) network of Black churches from the initial 50 churches in five major cities to approximately 100 churches in additional major cities and rural areas across 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Choose Healthy Life (CHL) is an initiative that ensures Black churches – the oldest and most trusted institutions in the Black community – receive the necessary resources, training and support to address COVID-19 and other health disparities by making available health services to hard-to-reach communities. The initiative has brought together local United Way agencies under the leadership of UWNYC which serves as the lead implementation partner for Choose Healthy Life through the support of founding partner Quest Diagnostics and its Foundation. Together they work with local health departments, hospitals and community-based organizations to ensure access to much-needed health services.

“We must remain vigilant when it comes to promoting the health and wellbeing of our Black communities,” said Debra Fraser-Howze, Founder of Choose Healthy Life and an advisor to two U.S. presidents on HIV and AIDS. “As COVID-19 comes under control, our focus will shift to testing and treating members of the community for critical health conditions that disproportionately impact the Black community. This includes obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, among others. This grant will enable us to do the much-needed work to get our communities vaccinated for COVID-19 while laying the foundation for future expansion to address health disparities generally in our community.”

United Way of New York City received the grant in response to its application entitled “Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Coalition: A Faith-based Approach to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake in Black Americans,” and the funding is being provided over the next six months.

“The HRSA grant will allow us to expand our critical work providing healthcare services to Black communities by increasing our network to approximately 100 Black churches across the country,” said Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way of New York City. “Not only will we be able to reach additional major cities, but also rural areas where access to critical healthcare services is even more limited. This funding marks a big step forward in our mission to ensure no community is left behind.”

Choose Healthy Life, which has established successful programs in New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Newark and Washington, D.C. since launching the initiative earlier this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 18, 2021), will use the HRSA funding to expand its program offering in 13 states including Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The HRSA Grant was made possible under the notice of funding opportunity entitled: “Community- Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations in Underserved Communities”

“The Black church is at the center of the Choose Healthy Life model, which is focused on connecting members of the local community to critical healthcare services,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network and co-chair of Choose Healthy Life’s National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council. “This funding will allow us to expand our reach and continue providing these essential services to Black communities across the country.”

CHL has funded 50 Black Choose Healthy Life churches across five major cities (New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Newark and Washington, D.C.). Within each church is a full-time public health navigator trained and charged with providing access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the immediate short-term while addressing other health disparities in the long term. In the first 90 days, CHL reached and engaged over 600,000 individuals, held over 130 vaccination and testing events, and administered over 30,000 vaccines to residents in hard-to-reach communities. Overall the program has either tested and/or vaccinated 45,000 community members which represents over 70% of the congregational membership represented by CHL’s 50 churches.

Choose Healthy Life was founded by Debra Fraser-Howze and is based on the highly successful model she created while at the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, to address the AIDS epidemic in our communities. Choose Healthy Life was founded in October 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to address health disparities in the Black community.

In November 2020, Choose Healthy Life established the National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council to help guide the program. Rev. Calvin O. Butts III (Abyssinian Baptist Church) and Rev. Al Sharpton (National Action Network) co-chair the Council. The program set out to launch in five major U.S. cities – Atlanta, Detroit, Newark, New York, and Washington DC. The Council includes city clergy leaders U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock (Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.); Rev. Horace Sheffield (New Destiny Christian Fellowship, Detroit, Mich.); Rev. David Jefferson (Metropolitan Baptist Church, Newark, N.J.); Rev. Jacques DeGraff (Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, New York, N.Y.) and Rev. Frank Tucker (First Baptist Church, Washington D.C.).

Media inquiries can be made by contacting Anne Smith at or at (917) 751-4839.


About United Way of New York City United Way of New York City (UWNYC) fights for the self-sufficiency of every low-income New Yorker by taking on the toughest challenges and creating new solutions to old problems. We win by helping families shift from barely surviving to thriving. We unite by mobilizing the best ideas, relevant data, internal and external experts, and resources—from money to manpower. UWNYC maximizes impact by coordinating and aligning organizations, companies, local government, and New Yorkers to help families eliminate tough choices and live better while making ends meet. To learn more, visit:

About Choose Healthy Life Choose Healthy Life is a program developed by D. Fraser Associates (DFA) based on the DFA Choose Healthy Life Standard – a sustainable, scalable, and transferable approach to address public health disparities and inequities in the Black community. The highly successful Standard was created by Debra Fraser-Howze, principal at DFA and founder of the National Black.

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