The nation’s most esteemed Black pastors, led by Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III, gathered during the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Conclave on Nov. 19. The virtual event brought together more than 100 influential Black clergy as well as public health officials and nonprofit and corporate leaders. The Conclave focused on the notable progress that has been achieved in the fight to educate the public and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in the Black community and what must be done to sustain the successful effort.
Leaders were briefed on the Choose Healthy Life (CHL) Action Plan, which provides COVID education, testing and vaccinations through the Black church– the oldest and most trusted institutions in the Black community. Since its launch earlier this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Choose Healthy Life has engaged over 6 million and vaccinated nearly 50,000 in the Black communities it serves among its 120 churches spread across 13 states
“Covid-19 has exposed health disparities, and more disturbingly, the impact of misinformation among our own people. But I have looked beyond the horizon of today’s headlines. After 750,000 deaths in American and more than 5 million worldwide, the pendulum is beginning to swing —and Choose Healthy Life is at the vanguard of that change.”said civil rights leader and President of National Action Network (NAN) Rev. Al Sharpton.
Choose Healthy Life, was created by Debra Fraser-Howze, founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, based on the Choose Healthy Life Standard – a sustainable, scalable and transferable approach to address public health disparities and inequities in the Black community. After launching CHL in 50 churches in five major cities with its implementation partner United Way of New York City and the support of founding partner Quest Diagnostics , the program has expanded to 120 churches in cities and rural areas across 13 states and the District of Columbia through funding from the U.S. Health and Resources Administration (HRSA).
According to Ms. Fraser-Howze, “The Black church and clergy have been a steadfast center of strength and leadership during so many of our crises and struggles in the past. Now, through the Choose Healthy Life Action Plan, they are once again leading the way by ensuring that Black communities are better informed and safer throughout the pandemic.”
The Conclave was hosted by Debra Fraser-Howze, founder, Choose Healthy Life and moderated by Reed Tuckson, M.D., FACP, co-founder, Black Coalition Against COVID-19. Topics of the speeches, panels and discussions included:
The latest guidance on COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, boosters and shots for children.
Trusted messengers–the power of the Black church to address health disparities on a local level.
CHL’s community-based approach using Health Navigators within the community.
In addition to Drs. Walensky and Nunez-Smith, prominent public health leaders at the conclave included Dr. Leon McDougle, president, National Medical Association; Dr. Louis Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Dr. Tom Frieden, former U.S. CDC director, Choose Healthy Life medical advisor and president/CEO, Resolve to Save Lives and Dr. Leon McDougle, president, National Medical Association.
Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, commented, “Today we come together to revive the partnership between faith and science. We clasp hands and hearts with our brothers and sisters from the medical community to build more than a response — we are together building a sustainable infrastructure for the future.”
The Action Plan is being led by the Choose Healthy Life National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council, co-chaired by Rev. Sharpton (National Action Network, New York, N.Y.) and Rev. Butts (Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York, N.Y.), and includes council members Rev. Jacques DeGraff (Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, New York, N.Y.); Rev. David Jefferson (Metropolitan Baptist Church, Newark, N.J.); Rev. Horace Sheffield (New Destiny Christian Fellowship, Detroit, Mich.); Rev. Frank Tucker (First Baptist Church, Washington D.C.); and Rev. Raphael Warnock (Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.). The Council has among its medical advisors, Dr. Louis Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Frieden and former U.S. Congresswoman Dr. Donna Christensen.
Funding support for Choose Healthy Life has been made possible through grants from founding sponsors, Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the Quest Diagnostics Foundation and Resolve to Save Lives.
For more information about Choose Healthy Life, the National Black Clergy Health Council, visit www.choosehealthylife.org