Charmaine Ruddock, director of Bronx Health REACH, is a coalition of 50 community and faith-based organizations, funded by the Centers for Disease Control’s REACH 2010 Initiative to address racial and ethnic health disparities.
Happy Valentine (Not So Much) from President Obama
A week ago on Valentine’s Day REACH communities across the country received the kind of Valentine’s Day gift that had no love behind it. Included in the President’s proposed budget for FY12 was the defunding of the 12 year REACH program. REACH which stands for Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health is CDC’s cornerstone effort to address the stubborn and persistent gap between the health outcomes of whites and those of people of color be they Asian/Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Hispanics, Alaska Natives and American Indians. The genius of this effort is that in 1999 CDC took the unprecedented approach that the communities most affected by disparities should take the lead in addressing their disparities. By all accounts this was a major departure in public health. Heretofore, health disparities was something studied and researched with papers written and academic treatises produced but not much done in terms of addressing them in the local context where there were occurring and definitely not with a community based participatory approach. Enter REACH. In 1999, under the leadership of the then head of CDC, Dr.David Saatcher grants were made to 36 communities. Their mandate was to convene coalitions made up of people who work, worship, and live in the community –residents, healthcare providers, academic institutions, faith-based organizations, public health departments, elected officials, business people etc. The Coalitions first task was to put together a community action plan to address the prevailing disparity and its underlying contributing factors in their community. This was no knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse telling ‘those people’ what their communities should be doing. Instead, communities were given the resources to figure out what they needed to do and then go about doing it.