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Introducing: Conveners for Health and Equity in Six New York Communities

By Phil Bors on January 26th, 2022

In 2015, the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) launched its Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative (HNI) to address urgent and longstanding community conditions that affect the health of New York State communities. Through the initiative, NYSHealth supported six community conveners across the state: Niagara Falls, Clinton County, Syracuse, East Harlem, Lower East Side, and Brownsville/Brooklyn.

Healthy Places by Design coordinated a learning collaborative of these HNI conveners to support their efforts to:

  • engage and mobilize community partners and residents,
  • improve equitable access to healthy and affordable food,
  • enhance access to safe places where residents can be physically active,
  • connect people to programs that support healthy behaviors, and
  • make use of local resources to improve health and wellness.

In the coming weeks, this blog will feature conversations with these committed community health change agents. In talking to these conveners, the Healthy Places by Design team, who have worked with them for more than six years, explore important questions that should resonate with and inform health funders and community health leaders. They also share advice for anyone leading and investing in community-led health equity initiatives. We invite you to read about their experiences—in their own words—and about the impact the HNI had on them personally and in their communities.

Below are a few sneak peeks from upcoming blogs.

Starting back in 2015, I had no clue about community work. I was someone just moving along in life, just living day-to-day. Evelyn asked me what I would like to see happen in the community. Nobody had ever posed that question to me. That was an a-ha moment that helped me increase my connection to my community.” - BRIAN ARCHIE, Integrator and Co-Chair, Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative


Love yourself. Take days off. You have to rest to make it sustainable. Be very intentional and strategic with your partners. Think about who you really love working with. Show up for the people who you want to show up for you.”– LEAH RUSSELL, Syracuse Peacemaking Project Coordinator


Our definition of success: we are successful when we become obsolete. We succeed if the need has been addressed. That’s a hard sell to most people working in non-profits. We should be honest about the degree to which the program originally set out to be has somehow shifted for its survival and not its mission.” – LINDA BRYANT, Project EATS


[Prior to getting started] I wish we would have met more with our partners. We should have gotten a tenant organization involved early. We can canvas the neighborhoods for resources that may not be known to us, and that we did not know about until the pandemic happened. Then, take more field trips to colleagues. Always take more field trips. Our Harlem field trip was inspiring and very helpful. It helped us move away from a dedication to one idea and made us recalibrate.” MICHELE RODRIQUEZ, University Settlement


There is so much for us to do in public health. I think it’s a really refreshing approach that we were able to genuinely develop our community partners to take this work on themselves, to step back from it, and be proud of the fact that our partners are ready to do this work without us.” – MANDY SNAY, Clinton County Health Department


Stay tuned. Much more to come!


Read the full blog series here
Phil Bors

Technical Assistance Director

Community collaborator, enthusiastic brainstormer, and devotee of down time