Reverend George F. Nicholas, Pastor at Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and Convener of the African American Health Disparities Task Force explains the dramatic health disparities facing citizens of east Buffalo.

Over 60 community members and representatives of area organizations including AmeriCorps, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (ECCPASA), Erie County Department of Senior Services, Igniting Hope Buffalo; Hope Buffalo and Millennium Collaborative Care participated Oct. 10, 2018 in the first of two “Disrupt Disparities Buffalo” Listening Sessions sponsored by AARP NY.

The kickoff session was hosted by the William-Emslie Family YMCA and YMCA Executive Director Danielle Roberts.

(A second session which will accommodate English and Spanish speakers will be held from 10 AM to 2 PM, Thurs., Oct. 11 at The Belle Center, 104 Maryland Street, Buffalo. Registration is encouraged and lunch will be provided.)

According to Erin Mitchell, Director of Engagement, AARP NY, “since 2016, the number of people 50 and over is increasing at a rapid pace”, and this initiative to understand and develop solutions to disparities challenging this age group is “spreading nationwide.”

“The primary objective is to ensure the growing population of people 50 and over are fully involved in identifying and sharing racial and ethnic disparities affecting their daily lives and in helping create solutions in response to these disparities,” she added.

Erin Mitchell, Director of Engagement, AARP NY addresses Listening Session participants.

The overall listening session was facilitated by Rita Hubbard-Robinson, Millennium Patient Activation Measure Director/Consultant and host of “Millennium Health Matters, who also serves as Chief Executive Officer of NeuWater & Associates, a company focused on improving population health with expertise in social determinants of health and community development.

Additional session leadership and key input was provided by Reverend George F. Nicholas, Pastor at Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church and Convener of the African American Health Disparities Task Force, a grassroots initiative that has brought together community and academic individuals to address and improve health disparities in the African American population in Buffalo.

Rita Hubbard-Robinson, center, and Listening Session Facilitation Team members

“The data shows that African Americans living in zip codes on Buffalo’s east side are living 10 to 12 years less than white people living in other areas,” said Reverend Nicholas. “This is a crisis in our region that demands a high priority,” he continued. “We know what our needs are, and we know how others can help us. We all need to advocate for a community where your race does not determine the quality of your life.”

Danielle Pelfrey Duryea, Associate Director, University at Buffalo Center for Successful Ageing and Assistant Dean, University at Buffalo Law School and Brittany Perez, Assistant Director for Community Engagement, UB Center For Successful Ageing

Danielle Pelfrey Duryea, Associate Director, University at Buffalo Center for Successful Ageing and Assistant Dean for Interprofessional Education and Health Law Initiatives at the University at Buffalo Law School; and Brittany Perez, Assistant Director for Community Engagement, UB Center For Successful Ageing also provided additional perspective and facilitation support.

“Building age friendly communities is critical,” said Brittany Perez.

The Listening Session program consisted of groups with individual facilitators who were challenged to discuss, analyze and provide solutions to “Scenarios” involving senior individuals challenged by disparities in social determinant of health key areas (economic, food, housing, transportation).

Following a series of exercises, and a delicious lunch provided by Mattie’s Restaurant (1412 Fillmore Ave.),  small group representatives reported out flip charts full of potential innovative solutions, much to the delight of session organizers and all involved.

“I am impressed by the work done today, but I’m not surprised,” concluded Reverend Nicholas. “The question is how willing are we to work and to fight to bring these ideas to life? And the most important word in this sentence is ‘we’ as no one is going to do the work for us.

“What are we going to do next?”, he continued.

“We are going to have a session where we present these disparities and potential solutions to policy makers at a meeting on Nov. 16 so they can see how to incorporate these ideas into their priorities for the year. We need everyone to attend this session.

“Ultimately, I’m looking forward to when we can have a true renaissance in this city,” concluded Reverend Nicholas. “…when the lives of all those who live in this space are elevated.”

Listening Session participants rank order potential disparities.

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