Funding Will Support Preventative Wellness Programs Run by 20 Churches Across New York City
Governor Kathy Hochul today recognized Choose Healthy Life for its work during the pandemic for offering COVID-19 testing and vaccinations through its Black churches across the five boroughs of New York. At an event held at Choose Healthy Life Church First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, the Governor announced that the FY 2023 New York State Budget includes an allocation of $3.38 million for Choose Healthy Life to address health inequities and administer preventative wellness programs run by 20 churches. This announcement by the Governor kicks off a Choose Healthy Life weekend of “Hope and Healing” that includes New York City Mayor Eric Adams offering remarks at a church service on Sunday, June 5th at CHL’s Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn.
“The pandemic exposed appalling health care disparities in Black communities, and today we are taking concrete action to close those gaps and get care to those who need it most,” Governor Hochul said. “This funding will be critical in helping address health care inequities in underserved communities. I thank Choose Healthy Life for their efforts throughout the COVID pandemic and look forward to our continued partnership to ensure quality care is available and accessible.”
The state’s commitment is part of a public-private collaboration that includes funding support from founding CHL partner Quest Diagnostics Foundation to hire the church-based community health workforce that has been established in New York and engaging the underserved communities in preventive care and wellness. A cornerstone to the wellness program will be the launch of Blueprint for Wellness® later this summer – a comprehensive health screening that provides powerful information to highlight personal health strengths and risks that will support under-resourced Black communities in taking control of their health.
State Senator Cordell Cleare said, “The inequality in health care for the Black community is not a new development to us – actions to address the health care disparities facing our community are long overdue. I am happy to join the Governor in announcing this initiative with the Black church to take this significant step in addressing the racial inequalities in our healthcare system and its impact on health care outcomes in our community. The church has historically been a present resource for leadership, spiritual guidance, and information in the Black community. It is fitting that this initiative is in joint collaboration with the church, especially during this pandemic, as we work to tackle the many challenges we face and take another step towards the healing, recovery, and restoration of our community.”
Co-Chair of CHL’s National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council and President of the National Action Network Reverend Al Sharpton said, “We applaud the Governor for her support of this important initiative – a proven model that has demonstrated that lives can be saved in our community through the work of our church-based community health work force.”
Pastor of The Abyssinian Baptist Church and CHL Co-Chair Rev. Calvin O. Butts III said, “New York is taking a leadership role across our nation by committing resources for our Black churches through Choose Healthy Life to address the health disparities that have plagued our community for decades.”
Choose Healthy Life New York Clergy Council Leader Reverend Jacques DeGraff said, “Today we take a major step towards health parity in our communities. Through this network of prominent Black Churches, New York is establishing a historic national model for improved health outcomes. This pioneering effort could not have been accomplished without the reimagined vision combining faith and science.”
CHL initially established a network of 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 on the establishment of a community health workforce in the Black church. In its first year, CHL hosted over 2,200 events, administering over 90,000 COVID-19 tests and vaccinations through its churches.
Choose Healthy Life was founded by Debra Fraser-Howze and is based off the highly successful model she created while at the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, an organization she founded to address the AIDS epidemic in Black communities with the widespread support of community leaders including Hazel Dukes, President of the New York State NAACP.
CHL Founder Debra Fraser-Howze said, “People keep asking ‘When are we going back to normal?’ and I say, ‘we are not going back to normal we died in normal.’ We are extremely grateful to the public-private partnerships that have been established to support Choose Healthy Life which has truly become a national movement. Without the support of the Governor, the State of New York and our corporate partners including Quest Diagnostics, we would not be in a position to address health equity in our communities.”
As a founding sponsor, the Quest Diagnostics Foundation provided financial support to establish CHL’s church-based community health workforce. In addition, Quest Diagnostics has donated diagnostic testing and other services to CHL, including COVID-19 resources and now preventive care and wellness testing to support the underserved Black community.
Quest Diagnostics CEO-elect Jim Davis said, “We saw firsthand the disproportionate impact COVID-19 had on the Black community and the vast health inequities it unveiled. We are proud to build on our collaboration with Choose Healthy Life to help save lives and improve the health of the Black community. Our goal is to expand access to health care resources to address key disparities that have impacted Black communities for too long.”
In November 2020, Choose Healthy Life established the National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council to help guide the program. Rev. Butts III and Rev. Sharpton co-chair the Council which includes Rev. DeGraff and U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock who leads the work in Atlanta. In addition to New York and Atlanta, the program is established in churches in Detroit (Rev. Horace Sheffield, New Destiny Christian Fellowship), Newark (Rev. David Jefferson, Metropolitan Baptist) and Washington, D.C. (Rev. Frank Tucker, First Baptist Church)
CHL has brought together local United Way agencies under the United Way of New York City which serves as the implementation partner for Choose Healthy Life. The churches and the agencies work collaboratively with local health departments, hospitals and community-based organizations to ensure access to much needed health services.
United Way of New York City Interim CEO Eric McDonnell said, “This funding is critical to our work in resolving racial inequities and disparities in healthcare. People of color were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, shedding a light on the need for vital health resources at the community level. Working with our city’s Black churches and clergy, we have established a trusted source for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations within our communities and will continue to help us educate, inform, and advocate for the well-being of people of color here in our community.”
Critical to the success of Choose Healthy Life has been bringing both faith and medical science together to ensure that accurate and timely information and education is delivered to its church-based health community health workforce. To that end, CHL has an established medical advisory board that includes former CDC Director and NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Frieden, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary and President Emeritus of Morehouse School of Medicine Dr. Louis Sullivan, the first female doctor in the U.S. House of Representatives Dr. Donna Christensen (1997-2015), former Washington D.C. Health Commissioner Dr. Reed Tuckson, former Chair of the White House Health Equity Task Force Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith and Harvard Medical School fellowship trained obesity medicine specialist Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford.
CHL funding comes from public/private collaborations that include founding partners Quest Diagnostics Foundation, Resolve to Save Lives, Siemens Foundation, Novo Nordisk, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and now the State of New York.
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.