Health Equity Champions
Health Equity Champions are a representative network of BPHC employees who are supported in advancing racial justice and health equity. They support the organizational application of racial justice and health equity principles into everyday work.
Alyssa Benalfew is the Program Manager for the Opioid Affected Youth Initiative on the Capacity Building and Training Initiative team, which is a program within the Division of Violence Prevention in the Child, Adolescent, and Family Health Bureau. She is also a member of the Capacity Building and Training Initiative, which is also housed within the Division of Violence Prevention. Alyssa has dedicated her budding public health career to centering those made vulnerable and affected by this time's greatest public health challenges: racism, violence, trauma, and those with substance use disorders, to name a few. Alyssa is emboldened every day by stories of resilience, resistance, healing, radical hope, and safety. Knowing this work was shepherded by visionaries long before her time, she is appreciative of the means to participate in purposeful work that may hopefully drive positive change in our communities.
What's your why? Through her work at the Family Justice Center and the Capacity Building and Training Initiative, she and others are often supporting agencies with changes related to racial justice and health equity. In her own work, she does believe there are opportunities to enhance existing work and projects.
Brandy Watts is the Community Action Network (CAN) Coordinator for the Boston Healthy Start Initiative (BHSI). Brandy defines health equity as making sure there are conditions for optimal health and well-being for ALL people, which fuels her passion to eliminate maternal and child heath disparities. After completing her Master's in Public Health at Long Island University, she worked in the community-based sector. In this role, she was overseeing community collaborative projects where the focus was the elimination of health disparities in the realm of infant mortality and very low birth weight babies (below 1500 grams) born to women living in marginalized communities. As a self- proclaimed women's health ambassador, she has since completed additional professional training and has become a Community Breastfeeding Educator, a Community Lactation Counselor (CLC), and a birth/postpartum doula. This training has also helped her to better serve women across their entire life span. She is excited to work with the BHSI CAN, as they aim to ensure all women and families have conditions for optimal births and healthy families and communities by addressing racial and social equity.
What's your why? As a CAN Coordinator for BHSI, she works to address racial health equity in maternal and child health. BHSI is aiming to raise awareness in this area to ensure all women and families have conditions for optimal births, addressing racial and social equity.
Diana Chaves is the Training Manager for the Capacity Building and Training Initiative (CBTI), which is part of the Division of Violence Prevention. Her role supports CBTI's goal of helping providers and systems in Boston recognize, understand and respond to the effects of trauma and better support individuals and families exposed to trauma and violence. Trauma is common, yet it is also disproportionately affecting communities of color due to structural oppression and inequitable access to resources. This is unjust. For this reason, when she envisions a healthy Boston and a healthy world, health equity and racial justice are integral components and are necessary to create solutions to these problems. Having the opportunity to help providers feel empowered to uplift and cultivate the resilience of their clients—and often themselves—is what motivates Diana to do her work every day. She hopes to create a world where every single person, specifically the most marginalized, feel valued, heard, and respected whenever entering a space.
What's your why? Diana trains providers on trauma, resilience and equity. She often works with organizations to integrate trauma informed approaches into their work. Diana wants to learn more and practice how to integrate the equity change project tool into her work to support others with using that lens once they have learned what health equity entails.
Senior Program Manager
Erin Polich works in the Office of Public Health Preparedness on emergency planning, response and recovery. In college, she taught a health course in a township in South Africa. There, Black and coloured townships remain marginalized and disempowered, even though legalized segregation has ended. When comparing the history of segregation in South Africa with her experiences living in the United States, she was forced to be honest about the widespread injustices still apparent across the globe.
Erin knew then that she wanted to focus her career on promoting social justice and reversing health inequities. She went on to spend most of the next decade working on humanitarian response and recovery programming in east and west Africa. Erin is encouraged by the opportunity we have here in the city of Boston—a city rich in public health and healthcare resources; a city awash in some of the best higher learning institutions in the country; and a city composed of a diverse and powerful population—to address those inequities, and to mitigate their consequences.
What's your why? OPHP is working to better integrate racial justice and health equity into their planning process. Erin believes this opportunity will provide a place to brainstorm ideas to improve racial justice and health equity that can be incorporated into OPHP's work.
Senior Program Manager
Jenny Valdez is the Senior Program Manager for Incident Management for the Neighborhood Trauma Team Initiative in the Division of Violence Prevention at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). Ms. Valdez has over 5 years of experience, both advocating for and providing direct support to victims, families and communities impacted by community violence. Prior to her tenure at BPHC, she worked as a Victim Witness Advocate for the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office and as a Family Partner for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Trauma Team; a partnership between Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brookside Community Health Center, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, and the Jamaica Plain Tree of Life. Ms. Valdez will receive her Master's in Social Work (MSW) in May of 2020, at which time she intends to continue her work supporting Boston's most vulnerable communities by working with healthcare providers and community-based organizations to implement public health interventions.
What's your why? As a candidate of MSW, she wants to continue to encourage using the racial justice and health equity lens to help others uplift marginalized communities.
Mental Health Clinician
Jheneire Loreus is a Mental Health Clinician in a Boston Public High School, an artist, a motivational speaker, a healer, and a social justice advocate. She was born and raised into a powerful and resilient lineage. Her roots are grounded in Turtle Island (indigenous pre- colonized North America), Cuba, Haiti, and Africa. As a descendant of mystics, warriors, revolutionaries, and creators she has committed her life to studying compassion and empathy. She has used these tools to fulfill her purpose in serving her community.
Geographically, she was born and raised in Boston, specifically Mattapan and Dorchester. In Boston, she learned about how racism and injustice are embedded within the policies that govern institutions and systems that negatively impacts her and her community. It is through these experiences where she discovered her love, light, and her own purpose to fight and advocate for racial justice and equity.
Her passion and motivation for creating change in her community have served as catalysts for her to inspire community consciousness. As a Mental Health Clinician, she dedicates herself to educating and empowering her students through art, critical and abstract thinking, music, love, patience, and determination.
Quality Improvement Coordinator
As part of her role as the Quality Improvement Coordinator, Laura helps staff think about improving their work across three dimensions of quality: effectiveness, efficiency and equity. In this office, the graphic of three people trying to look over a fence is used to demonstrate the difference between equality and equity. However, her journey has made her question the graphic. In May of 2019, she attended a presentation by Dr. Richard Hofrichter from NACCHO. He criticized the public health narrative of health disparities for its absence of context like racism, class exploitation, and marginalization. He encouraged the audience to shift from the conventional public health question, "What social programs and services are necessary to address health equity?" to asking, "What types of social change is necessary to confront health inequity?"
What's your why? Through her learning as a Health Equity Champion, she hopes to come to terms with when to spend energy improving the quality or equity of a program or service—giving out boxes—and when to advocate for a construction crew to tear down the fence
Roberto Chong is a counselor in the Homeless Services Bureau. His main responsibilities include ensuring the overall safety of guests at shelters and within programs, intervening to de-escalate conflict situations, conducting informal counseling sessions to assess needs and make appropriate referrals to internal and external programs, developing positive professional relationships with guests to facilitate care, and maintaining a stable environment by ensuring residents follow program rules.
Roberto's passion to serve others shapes his professional and personal life. As part of his work, he has experienced many institutional barriers, and he continues to work to eliminate exploitation of people in the healthcare field by educating and involving clients to focus on their overall health improvement. Through collaborations with primary care physicians, Roberto has been able to assist his clients in considering alternative therapies and considering using supplements and vitamins, which in most cases proved to be effective and helpful for the clients. A world where health equity exists will be a dream come true for Roberto.
What's your why? Roberto is interested in learning more about Racial Justice and Health Equity for the purpose of integrating its practice with his vast past experience in the mental health field as a Clinical Social Worker who works with diverse multi-ethnic, disadvantaged, poor populations. Roberto hopes to apply Racial Equity and Health Equity practices in his present work.
Shannon is an evaluator in the Research and Evaluation Office. She also recently applied to, and is in the process of becoming, a Racial Justice and Health Equity facilitator. Shannon does program evaluation and analyzes data by race and the social determinants of health. She values qualitative data, which is collected through methods of observations, one-on-on interviews, conducting focus groups etc., because it helps explain the 'why'. She believes it's important to point out and be explicit about the possible reasons why there are health inequities by race because it is not a person's race that causes health inequities; it is racism, and how racism impacts the social determinants of health. Knowing we can make change is what motivates Shannon to do her work every day. She knows government can be used for good. You can look at the present or go back in history and see how governmental policies and programs negatively impacted people's lives, but you will also see how they have positively impacted lives.
What's your why? Shannon believes we need to make sure governmental programs and policies are working to right the wrongs of the past and the present, so all Boston residents can thrive, not just survive.
As the Nutrition and Wellness Program Manager at the Boston Public Health Commission, Sonia Carter, MS, LDN, provides leadership and management for the Division of Chronic Disease Prevention & Control as well as nutrition education and policy/practice change to support healthy eating in diverse sectors. The primary focuses are obesity and chronic disease prevention and prioritizing racial, ethnic and other inequities in health outcomes through policy, system and environmental approaches. Sonia leads the Boston Child Care Initiative Learning Collaborative and Healthy Eating Professional Development Opportunities for Center Based Child Care Centers, Family Day Care and Out of School Time Educators.
What's your why? The Boston Healthy Child Care Initiative works with educators in the Early Childcare Setting. She wants to be mindful that the work done in these settings is with a racial justice and healthy equity lens.
Tatiana is a Program Coordinator for the Ryan White HIV Planning Council in the Infectious Disease Bureau. She supports a federally mandated group of volunteers dedicated to effectively allocating Ryan White funds in the community and bridging those who are HIV+ with the services they need to thrive. The Planning Council is fairly diverse, but as there is always a racial inequity element to healthcare in the city, it impacts people living with HIV. Tatiana believes the more tools she has to combat this, the more impactful she can be in her role.
While a lot of her public health work so far has been internationally focused, Tatiana wanted to see HIV/AIDS care and health equity from a domestic lens. She is passionate about individual and community empowerment—specifically for marginalized populations.
For Tatiana, a world where health equity exists is one that views and provides quality, holistic care as the standard, not solely as an aspiration.
What's your why? Tatiana is interested in becoming a Health Equity Champion because she is dedicated to equity in every social capacity, with a focus on healthcare. She adopted Boston as her city years ago and would be honored to contribute her years of public (and global) health, research, hospital administration and gender rights experience to the team.
Emergency Medical Technician
Trevor Link is an EMT with Boston EMS, and his main role is patient care. He sees health equity impacted by his daily job responsibilities. No matter who in Boston needs assistance, he or a colleague will meet them at any time and in any place, guarantee them transport to an appropriate healthcare facility, and advocate on their behalf so that they will receive exceptional care from a physician for their illness or injury. In a world where health equity exists, every municipality should provide this type of service. Trevor says this is the best job he has ever had, and it's the longest he's worked anywhere in his life. Trevor thinks this is because of the people whom he meets, including patients, the public who frequently offer their assistance, and also the people who are working with him in all kinds of agencies and healthcare settings, for they truly are an admirable group of dedicated individuals.
What's your why? His perspective is that EMS provides Health Equity to the people of Boston by making sure that they get heath care when they need it. Because Health Equity is vital to public health, he feels that it's important for him to understand it better.