Following Meeting, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Debra Fraser-Howze and Dr.
Louis Sullivan 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. — Earlier this week, 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.
“Faith leaders and organizations like Choose Healthy Life connect people with federally qualified health
centers, health care systems, public health departments, and other important health services. I want to
thank Choose Healthy Life for all of their work, partnership, and commitment to equity, and for working
to connect people in need to the services they need,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Several of the Choose Healthy Life leaders who participated in the meeting shared responses
Rev. Al Sharpton, Co-Chair of Choose Healthy Life: “Our agenda 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 better access to healthcare 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 communities
across the country will be one step closer to rooting out the endemic causes of unequal health
outcomes once and for all.”
Debra Fraser-Howe, Founder of Choose Healthy Life: “Our meeting 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 our meeting demonstrates the progress we can
make with the right partners.”
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 –and grew to 120 churches across 13 states.
The success of the program is centered around the leadership of the Black clergy and the establishment of a
faith-based community health workforce in the church. In its first year, CHL hosted over 2,500 events,
administered nearly 100,000 COVID-19 tests and vaccinations through its churches.