August 2014 National REACH Coalition Newsletter

"Advancing Racial and Ethnic Health Equity"
Recognizing National Health Center Week 
August 10 - 16, 2014
Each year the second week in August is dedicated to celebrating the services and contributions of Community, Migrant, Homeless and Public Housing Health Centers. While there are countless reasons to celebrate America’s Health Centers, among the most important and unique is their long success in providing access to affordable, high quality, cost effective health care to medically vulnerable and underserved people throughout the United States.

In this month’s edition of the NRC newsletter we highlight the work of two of Washington, DC’s leading community health centers – Mary’s Center and Community of Hope. Like many health centers around the country, these organizations have been sources of quality care, support and guidance to members of Washington’s neighborhoods. Please take a moment to learn more about them. Throughout the month of August we encourage you to learn about and support the community health centers operating in your cities and towns.
In Observance of National Health Center Week

Mary’s Center was founded in 1988 by current President and CEO Maria Gomez and a group of ccommunity advocates to meet the needs of vulnerable immigrant women who escaped war and poverty. Since its doors opened, the Center has grown from a small basement with 10 employees serving 200 women a year to a Federally Qualified Health Center with six locations and two mobile units in DC and Maryland, and more than 450 employees serving nearly 40,000 men, women, and children.

Mary’s Center employs a unique Social Change Model, integrating health care, education and social services to help eliminate health and social inequities in the communities it serves. Services include: medical and dental care, mental health care and psychiatry,  chronic disease control, health promotion, social services, early intervention for children with special needs, home visiting, senior health and wellness, adolescent tutoring and college preparation, WIC program, family literacy, child care licensing, and medical assistant classes. 

Community Health Across the City
Community of Hope works to improve the health and quality of life for low-income, homeless, and underserved families and individuals in the District of Columbia by providing healthcare, housing with supportive services, educational opportunities and spiritual support.


To meet the healthcare needs of DC's underserved families, Community of Hope operates health centers in three of DC's four quadrants, where they offer compassionate care regardless of patients' ability to pay. Their services across the city include primary medical care for the whole family, dentistry and birthing services. Community of Hope opened their newest site, the Conway Health and Resource Center in Bellevue, in January 2014 - and have already served 1,000 unique patients with medical and dental care.


National REACH Coalition
Encourages Healthy Eating
in support of

National Farmer's Market Week
August 3-9, 2014

National REACH Coalition has supported several groups across the country that ensures access to healthy foods in their communities through the implementation of Farmer's Markets.

The NRC shares some of the top reasons to shop at Farmer's Markets from USDA's Food and Nutrition Information Center and
 the benefits of buying fresh, nutritious, delicious and locally grown foods in your own community.
  • SNAP and WIC cards are accepted at most farmers markets.
  • You can try a new fruit or vegetable!
  • Farmers often have good recommendations on ways to prepare their products.
  • Farmers markets can be important anchors for vibrant communities.
  • It's a great way to get your kids involved.
  • Shopping at farmers markets supports your local farmers and keeps the money you spend closer to your neighborhood.
  • Freshly picked ripe food is at its peak in flavor and nutrition.


NRC Mission:
To Increase the capacity of underserved racial and ethnic communities across the U.S. to achieve health equity.

About Us:
The National REACH Coalition (NRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, located in Washington D.C., that is committed to the elimination of health disparities and the achievement of health equity among racial and ethnic minorities.

This NRC Newsletter Edition Features Stories On:
Health Equity in the News

The HELEN Project

NRC's CTG Communities 


Support the National REACH Coalition's work to promote, develop, and implement innovative techniques aimed at the elimination of health disparities within communities of color. Contribute to our efforts by making a generous donation to the National REACH Coalition's Annual Fund.



12th Annual Disparities in Health in America Recap

Over 270 students and professionals attended the 12th annual "Disparities in Health in America Workshop: Working Towards Social Justice" hosted by Intercultural Cancer Council at Prairie View Nursing College in Houston Texas this June.  ICC and the Health Disparities, Education, Awareness, Research and Training (HDEART) Consortium’s expected outcome for the workshop was to help participants increase their understanding of health disparities and explore vast approaches from different career fields to address health disparities in communities of color and underserved populations.
Facilitated by ICC Program Chair, Dr. Lovell A. Jones, the workshop provided expertise from over 50 speakers who served as panelist and presenters that covered topics within health disparities including Demographic Changes, Public Health & Health Inequities; Tobacco-Use:  Creating and Resolving the Problems of Disparities; Human Genomics and Disparities:  Globally and Locally; Human Inequities and Health Communication; Health Disparities & Patient Navigation; Health Disparities and the Media; Health Disparities and Ethics; and Health Disparities and Health Policy.  The speakers not only offered their knowledge and research on the issue of health disparity but also offered solutions to address it. Notable speakers included the Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, former Secretary of Health & Human Services.

             Pictured from left to right: (Channte Keith, Program Manager, NAATPN; Dr. Lovell A. Jones, ICC Program Chair; Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, Former Secretary of Health & Human Services; Barbara Clark, Administrative Assistant, NAATPN).

As a recipient of ICC’s Professional Scholarship’s, and a partner of NAATPN, National REACH Coalition’s Program Manager, Angelica Alton attended the workshop to learn more about the health disparities that NRC works so hard to help communities eliminate. NRC works with National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN), to educate and engage communities and the organizations that serve them about policy, systems and environmental improvements to reduce the burden of tobacco morbidity and mortality in African Americans communities. Angelica agrees that the workshop allowed her to network with other professionals who work in health equity, add to the conversation about approaches to health disparities on the community level throughout the country and learn about evidence-based and innovative approaches to ending health disparities across the country.

Overall, the workshop achieved its goal in providing both undergraduate/graduate students and professionals an opportunity to develop or enhance their knowledge of the health disparities that exist in America and how they can work or contribute toward advancing health equity.
Are you a HELEN Member?

HELEN is a national network designed to support and strengthen health equity leadership and the exchange of ideas and information among health equity champions relative to the advancement of health equity in laws, policies, and programs. The HELEN forum will also share timely and essential information and forms health equity strategies and approaches at the local, state, regional and national level.

The Health Equity Leadership Exchange Network (HELEN) is a collaborative effort between the National REACH Coalition, Morehouse School of Medicine and National Collaborative for Health Equity.

To learn more about the project and become a HELEN project member, please visit     
NRC's CTG Communities 

The National REACH Coalition was one of 3 national networks to receive a 5–year Acceleration Award through the CDC's Community Transformation Grant (CTG) program in 2011. The CTG program continues to support, disseminate, and amplify the evidence-based strategies for health improvement in African-American/ Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaskan Native populations.

In October 2013, the NRC selected and distributed funds to its 2013-2014 CTG sub-awardees.  Below are updates from these initiatives.

Teaching Garden increases Healthy Eating Options for New Mexico Residents

Pictured: Garden in Hidalgo County, New Mexico.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is exactly the thought behind the teaching garden established in rural New Mexico by the Hidalgo County Food Coalition. The teaching garden brings much needed healthy food options to the USDA classified food desert where approximately a quarter of the population is poor. Also, the entire county is home to only one full service grocery store.

Entirely supported by the community, the teaching garden is the product of local farmers, engaged businesses, and invested community stakeholders. The garden produced in excess of 145 pounds of produce since June 2014.  Included in the harvest were lettuce, carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnips and turnip greens.  The produce was donated to the Hidalgo Senior Center, emergency food pantries and sold at 2 local Farmers Markets.
Pictured: Closer look at Local Garden in Hidalgo County.

Additionally, the garden serves as a teaching facility for children and residents interested in learning gardening/farming techniques. In early spring of 2014, the Food Coalition hosted an annual educational event, which trained home gardeners through a series of 6 classes. Christy Ortiz, Hidalgo County Food Coalition member, said, “The beautiful part of the teaching garden is that local residents are applying the lessons learned to start their own home gardens. ”

It is clear that community stakeholders are heavily invested in increasing healthy food options. Recently, the Hidalgo County Food Coalition secured a $15,000 Power Up Grant from Power New Mexico (a local utility company). The Food Coalition is investing the money to create a green space town square that will operate like a teaching garden. The team states, “This exciting opportunity not only brings food security to Hidalgo County, but will allow our residents to keep learning about gardening and farming”. This innovative strategy demonstrates that teaching a man to farm might be the key to ending food inaccessibility in rural New Mexico. 


4 Key Things We Have Learned Through the Last 2 Years of NRC Technical Assistance…

Over the past several years, the NRC has worked with communities all across the country who are bringing about meaningful, sustainable change to improve health outcomes for their most vulnerable populations.  We wanted to share some of the key findings from our time with these communities.
  1. Develop a flexible technical assistance program.
When the NRC was awarded the CTG Acceleration and REACH 2012 grants we worked with 23 community coalitions to deliver healthy eating, physical activity, clinic to community best practices, and tobacco control programs.  Some communities were in rural areas, some in urban areas; we had communities in post-industrial cities in the Midwest, and border towns in the Southwest.  Some had been prior CDC-REACH grantees with long standing coalitions, while others were just starting to establish their coalitions and engage new stakeholders with new initiatives. We had groups that were working with Asian communities, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Latino communities. The point is: communities around the US are in very different places, with diverse identities, circumstances, resources, strengths, and challenges. A technical assistance program that seeks to increase the capacity of coalitions must not only recognize this diversity but embrace and place it at the center of the technical assistance program.  
How is this done?  Ensuring that each community’s voice, cultural identity, values and history are represented in the work taking place. NRC provided a blend of group technical assistance (webinars, in-person workshops) with highly intensive one-on-one technical assistance (monthly calls, site visits).  The group technical assistance made sure that every member of a coalition was on the same page in regard to program expectations, such as, assessments and data collection, and definitions of key concepts, like ‘health equity’ and ‘evaluation’. One-on-one technical assistance focused on specific community conditions and interventions, and provided hands-on support and guidance in crafting, implementing, and evaluating initiatives. 
  1. Emphasize evaluation capacity building
Studies show that community-based organizations and coalitions struggle with evaluation.  This is problematic because it hinders their ability to show effectiveness, adjust programming, and secure additional funding. Through exit interviews with our first cohort of coalitions, we found wide discrepancies in their understanding of what ‘evaluation’ meant or entailed.  Many defined it as ‘conversations with community members about what worked and did not work.’  While this is true, it is a step in an evaluation process.  Many were unsure of what comprised an evaluation plan. While others tended to avoid evaluation processes as their communities had been ‘over-researched’ with little to no benefit. 
We found that using group-based technical assistance to provide evaluation plan templates, as well as clarifying the understanding of what goes into an evaluation, and the many valuable uses of the information gathered, significantly increased the coalition’s capacity to develop and implement their own processes.  However, this is not enough.  In our work with our next two cohorts, we found that providing intensive one-on-one evaluation planning at the very beginning of the project clarified understanding, expectations put this capacity into action early on.  Additionally, having evaluation objectives and action steps written into workplans incorporates these processes directly into the ongoing activities of the coalition leading to stronger outcomes.

  1. Strong coalitions and partnerships increase the sustainability of prevention programs.
This should not be surprising.  Strong partnerships and coalition not only increase the chance that initiatives will be continued after the funding period ends, but also increases the opportunities to attract new funding, which helps to sustain or expand initiatives. Quite simply, policy, systems, and environmental change interventions rely on coalitions, partnerships, and collaborations, which supports the intervention beyond initial funding, personnel changes or individual behaviors.
  1. Let the community lead.
While it is important to illustrate that public health initiatives have rigorous evidence to show their effectiveness, this does not mean that all ‘evidence-based’ programs will work in every community. This is due to a number of reasons. First, many communities may not have the resources or expertise to carry out these types of programs.  Second, the literature on the effectiveness of prevention programs is very outcome-focused—attuned to the question ‘did the program work?’- with less attention paid to why programs might or might not work.  What this all leads to is the necessity of paying close attention to the knowledge that community members in the coalition bring, including culture, history, data on chronic disease and social determinants of health, and the strengths and challenges their communities face.  There is often an act of translation necessary—adjustments made to reflect the local conditions to insure that evidence based strategies are adapted to meet the specific and unique needs of the community.

Do you have an idea for a future article or is there a specific topic/issue you'd like us to cover? Please feel free to e-mail us at and let us know. We want to hear from you!

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