Kirsten Gillbrand

Kirsten Gillbrand


Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a press conference at the Community Health Center of Buffalo’s Niagara Falls location to announce her Health Equity Innovation Act, legislation to fight racial disparities in health outcomes by expanding access to preventative health care in underserved communities. The bill would establish a new grant program to provide federal funding to faith- and community-based organizations located in medically underserved areas like Niagara Falls. Grants would help cover the cost of providing preventative care – including free or low-cost health screenings, vaccinations, family planning services, and mental health services – hiring community health workers, and expanding capacity. Gillibrand is calling for $50 million for this program to be included in the Fiscal Year 2025 government funding bill. 


Astronomical health care costs and a chronic shortage of health care providers in Black communities mean that too many Black New Yorkers have difficulty getting routine checkups, vaccinations, and other critical preventative care,” said Senator Gillibrand. Organizations like the Community Health Center of Buffalo fill the gaps. By providing accessible and affordable services, they are building healthier communities and helping to end racial disparities in health outcomes. I’m introducing the Health Equity Innovation Act to make sure faith- and community-based organizations have the funding they need to continue doing this important work, and I look forward to getting this bill passed.” 


“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we learned just how important it is to have trusted sources of information and care in our communities,” said Congressman Tim Kennedy. “The Health Equity Innovation Act will ensure that the organizations that have their ear to the ground in our neighborhoods have funding in place to deliver care, address healthcare disparities, and improve outcomes. Faith- and community-based providers are on the front lines of combating healthcare inequities, and we need to have their backs.”


“We appreciate the continued effort by Senator Gillibrand to help level the playing field in health care. The Health Equity Innovation Act can provide necessary resources to sectors of the community in need and improve health outcomes for the residents in our City,” said Mayor Robert Restaino.


“Race based health disparities continue to keep too many people in our community in bondage. It is both appropriate and significant that Senator Gillibrand is holding this event on Juneteenth. Citizens in both Niagara Falls and Buffalo are suffering from chronic disease as a result of the social determinants of health and we are encouraged by Senator Gillibrand’s bold leadership on this issue. The Health Equity Innovation Act, is transformative legislation that will liberate many marginalized Americans from a life filled with poor health,” said Reverend George Nicholas, CEO of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity.


“Supporting the Health Equity Innovation Act is critical because it directly addresses the systemic health disparities in our community,” said Dr. LaVonne Ansari, chief executive officer and executive director, Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc. “By empowering faith- and community-based organizations to expand access to culturally appropriate care, we can ensure that underserved populations receive the preventative and medical services they greatly need. This bill is a crucial step towards achieving health equity and improving outcomes for all, especially those in medically underserved areas. It will also foster innovation and inclusivity in healthcare delivery.”


Black Americans suffer disproportionately from a variety of health conditions, including asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts, and the Black infant mortality rate is higher than that of any other group. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black individuals were hospitalized and died at higher rates than white Americans. These disparities are caused in part by a longstanding lack of access to high-quality health care in Black communities. 


The Health Equity Innovation Act would address this lack of access by awarding grants to faith- and community-based organizations with a proven track record of addressing health inequities. Eligible organizations would be located in federally designated Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) or Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), geographic areas and populations that have limited access to primary care services. Niagara Falls is a designated Health Professional Shortage Area. In addition to introducing legislation, Senator Gillibrand is calling on Senate appropriators to include $50 million in funding for a Health Equity Innovation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2025 spending bill. 


Gillibrand is a longstanding advocate for racial equality in health care. Notably, she is a cosponsor of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a package of 13 bills that would address the Black maternal mortality crisis as well as racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health care. The legislation would invest in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes; diversify the perinatal workforce; extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods; promote maternal vaccinations, and more.

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