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Connecticut in Forefront on Tackling Health Disparities

April 22, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. – The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has just released its first-ever action plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, and Connecticut is already ahead of the curve in tackling the issue.

For the past six years, the Connecticut Health Foundation has trained an annual class of 20 Health Leadership Fellows, people who represent a wide spectrum of occupations and interests. Three-quarters of them are men and women of color. Heidi Brooks, a consultant to the program, explains the goal.

"To identify and support and train leaders who can take their place at the decision-making table in Connecticut for health matters."

These individuals range from physicians to grassroots leaders, says Brooks, and each person brings their own special interests and passions to contribute to the group as well as learning from others. Some might teach health policy in college, while others work in city health departments. She says the grassroots leaders who are chosen for the program also fill an important niche.

"Their educations may actually be very low, but their impact is potentially high, because they speak directly to large groups of people."

Elizabeth Krause, a former Fellow, is now a senior program officer at the Connecticut Health Foundation. She believes the collective impact of the program's graduates has been widespread.

"These leaders are focusing on championing change in their organizations, in their communities, in their churches, in their neighborhoods."

The foundation is currently recruiting for its seventh class of Health Leadership Fellows.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT