When I started working in the HealthCorp program at Bronx Health REACH last September, I had a basic idea of what a community coalition was. However, after working with the Bronx Health REACH Faith-Based Outreach Initiative (FBOI), a coalition of 47 churches in the Bronx, I have seen how much power there can be in a community coalition and, more importantly, how crucial a coalition is for community change.
On May 3rd, Bronx Health REACH held its annual pastor’s breakfast to honor the work done by the churches over the last ten years and discuss the future of the coalition. Below is a list of some of the churches’ achievements:
- Established health ministries and culinary committees to improve policies and practices for selecting, preparing, and serving healthy meals to their congregations.
- Organized health activities such as Fine, Fit and Fabulous, a nutrition and fitness program, and The Way, a support program for congregants living with diabetes.
- Distributed 42,792 pieces of health education literature.
- Held 1,671 events, including workshops, presentations and health fairs, reaching 32,574 community residents.
- Delivered over 600 health and health equality-related sermons reaching an average of 5,970 congregants per month.
These activities led to healthier eating habits, weight loss, and better diabetic health outcomes among church congregants and increased physical activity in the community.
In addition to nutrition and fitness programs, the churches have played a key role in Bronx Health REACH’s Segregated Care Campaign, which seeks to address the unequal delivery of outpatient health services in hospitals across New York though a state-level bill that would require hospitals to treat everyone in the same setting, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or insurance type. Since 2007, the FBOI coalition has mobilized and educated over 5,000 clergy members to promote equal access to care in New York City.
During the meeting, Dr. Neil Calman, President/CEO of the Institute for Family Health, along with Reverend Dr. Foley from Cosmopolitan Church of the Lord Jesus and Shena Elrington, the Director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, gave inspiring speeches to continue the coalition’s efforts. Also, several other pastors gave messages of support for the campaign and offered valuable insight and strategies for the faith-based community to continue the fight against powerful interests that support separate and unequal specialty care in New York City, including:
- Identifying congregants who have experiences separate and unequal medical care and encourage them to share their stories with us.
- Inviting Bronx Health REACH representatives to future clergy and community meetings to talk about segregated care.
- Educating elected officials about the issue of segregated care and its impact on the congregation members, their constituents.
At the pastor’s breakfast, it was clear that despite its accomplishments, the coalition’s job is far from over. There is still a lot of work to be done within the individual churches and throughout the community. What was also clear was the coalition’s commitment to continue its efforts to make health equality a reality through the power and leadership of our faith-based community.
For more information about the FBOI coalition and the Segregated Care Campaign, please email email@example.com or call (212) 633-0800 x1232
This blogpost was written by Luis Arzaluz, a HealthCorp member at Bronx Health REACH.