Kirsten E. Gillibrand

06/19/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2024 14:41

In Rochester, Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Address Racial Disparities In Health Care Access

In Rochester, Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Address Racial Disparities In Health Care Access

Jun 19, 2024

Black Americans Are More Likely To Suffer From Diabetes, Heart Disease, And Other Serious Chronic Health Problems

Gillibrand's Bill Would Help Provide High-Quality And Affordable Preventative Health Care In Medically Underserved Communities In Monroe County And Beyond

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a press conference at Greater Harvest Church to announce her Health Equity Innovation Act, legislation to fight racial disparities in health outcomes by expanding access to preventative health care in underserved communities. The bill would establish a new grant program to provide federal funding to faith- and community-based organizations located in medically underserved areas like much of Rochester. Grants would help cover the cost of providing preventative care - including free or low-cost health screenings, vaccinations, family planning services,and mental health services - hiring community health workers, and expanding capacity. Gillibrand is calling for $50 million for this program to be included in the Fiscal Year 2025 government funding bill.

"Astronomical health care costs and a chronic shortage of health care providers in Black communities mean that too many Black New Yorkers have difficulty getting routine checkups, vaccinations, and other critical preventative care," said Senator Gillibrand."Partnerships between organizations like Common Ground Health and Greater Harvest Church can fill these gaps. By connecting residents with accessible and affordable services, they are building healthier communities and helping to end racial disparities in health outcomes. I'm introducing the Health Equity Innovation Act to make sure faith- and community-based organizations have the funding they need to continue doing this important work, and I look forward to getting this bill passed."

"Juneteenth is a day when we celebrate hearing the sweet news of freedom. The news of Senator Gillibrand's legislation, the Health Equity Innovation Act is also a cause for celebration," said Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground Health. "This work is vital to the community. Health services offered in faith-based settings ensure that the community gets access to the care they need in locations where trust and relationships have been built up. Faith-based services help to right historical wrongs and expand access in areas where there are shortages of health professionals."

"Greater Harvest has been proud to partner with Common Ground Health for many years to offer a health ministry that centers health equity in its work. We have been able to offer services to the community, such as screenings and testing, health education events, and opportunities for our community to be active and connected," said Reverend Sebrone Johnson, Senior Pastor of Greater Harvest Church, Chair of the African-American Health Coalition. "Relationships are the key to this work, and we know that the relationships we have built have helped our community improve its health. It is an honor to host Senator Gillibrand as she announces her legislation to support these relationships we've built."

"For years, we have been training our church coordinators to take blood pressures in churches, share health information, and promote healthier celebrations and physical activity. We do this because we know it makes a difference," said Phyllis Jackson, Community Wellness Project Manager for Common Ground Health. "We've heard the stories of people whose lives have been changed, or even saved, because of our faith-based ministries. We rejoice that more people might have access to these services."

"Leaders in the faith-based community have always been on the forefront of addressing health equity. They are trusted messengers for communities of color in particular in sharing preventive education messages. They are among the first to know if a community member is struggling with a health issue, and they are key resources to connecting people with the help they need," said Jackie Dozier, Director of Community Health and Well-being for Common Ground Health. "Senator Gillibrand's legislation is an important step to ensuring this work can continue, and that our communities' needs are not forgotten."

Black Americans suffer disproportionately from a variety of health conditions, including asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts, and the Black infant mortality rate is higher than that of any other group. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black individuals were hospitalized and died at higher rates than white Americans. These disparities are caused in part by a longstanding lack of access to high-quality health care in Black communities.

The Health Equity Innovation Act would address this lack of access by awarding grants to faith- and community-based organizations with a proven track record of addressing health inequities. Eligible organizations would be located in federally designated Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) or Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), geographic areas and populations that have limited access to primary care services. The vast majority of Rochester is a designated Health Professional Shortage Area. In addition to introducing legislation, Senator Gillibrand is calling on Senate appropriators to include $50 million in funding for a Health Equity Innovation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2025 spending bill.

Gillibrand is a longstanding advocate for racial equality in health care. Notably, she is a cosponsor of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a package of 13 bills that would address the Black maternal mortality crisis as well as racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health care. The legislation would invest in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes; diversify the perinatal workforce; extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods; promote maternal vaccinations, and more.