September 20, 2019

Watson Coleman Leads Introduction of Resolution Recognizing Contributions of REACH Program

Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) is celebrating 20 years of impact on minority health

Washington, D.C. (September 20, 2019) — Today, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) joined with Tri-Caucus Chairs Karen Bass (D-Ca), Joaquin Castro (D-Tx) and Judy Chu (D-Ca), along with Reps. Tom Cole (R-Ok), Barbara Lee (D-Ca), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Ca) and Robin Kelly (D-IL) to introduce H.Res. 570, a resolution commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health, or REACH, program.

“Racial and ethnic disparities exist across our society, often the result of systemic failures and often requiring comprehensive, systemic solutions. In healthcare, we have the unique opportunity to use small, locally-focused shifts to address those disparities and reduce the prevalence of diseases in communities of color,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “That’s the work that REACH has aided communities in doing for 20 years. This program has made a concrete impact, functionally improving health for millions. We must protect it, and build on its success to fight persistent health disparities.”

“REACH is an incredibly valuable program that gives localities the ability to address health disparities as they see fit,” said Rep. Cole. This program is especially important to tribal communities, which suffer from chronic diseases at significantly higher rates on average. Twenty years since the program was established, I’m pleased to join my colleagues in the introduction of a resolution affirming and celebrating REACH’s importance across the country.”

Since 1998, the CDC has provided funds through REACH to state and local health departments, individual tribes, universities and community-based organizations in order to connect with communities of color impacted by health disparities and to employ programming that heads off chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

“I am proud that our country has programs in place like REACH that recognize the unique needs of communities of color. This is especially important for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, who, despite the model minority myth, continue to face unique health challenges and obstacles to care,” said Rep. Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). “For two decades now, REACH has helped to ensure that every community has the best chance of a healthy future by working to overcome the systemic problems that lead to unequal health outcomes. This includes ensuring that AAPIs have access to culturally and linguistically competent care. Your future should not be predetermined by the conditions of your birth, and REACH is essential in our work for equality. I pledge to continue to support this vital program.”

“We know that racial and ethnic health disparities not only exist but undermine our communities and our health care system,” said Rep. Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). “African Americans tend to bear a disproportionate burden of suffering from certain health conditions when compared to our white counterparts. That is why the REACH program is vital to our community. Since its establishment, countless African Americans have received the assistance they need to address common health inequalities and I am proud to once again support this outstanding initiative.”

“Hispanic communities and other communities of color are often underserved for their medical needs, which impacts the health of everyone from children and pregnant mothers to the elderly. Language barriers and cultural differences are just a few of the unique challenges that keep our communities from getting the services they need to thrive. That’s why providing culturally and racially sensitive community health services is so important,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro. “The positive impact of REACH Programs on our communities is immeasurable and today we celebrate and recognize the program’s invaluable success. By ensuring health education, preventative services, and regular check-ins, millions of Americans are living healthier lives. We must work with the CDC to protect these programs and keep building the infrastructure of opportunity that helps Hispanic families thrive.”

Between 2014 and 2018, REACH provided 2.7 million people better access to healthy food and beverages, overcoming the challenges faced by communities in food deserts that make them more susceptible to chronic illness. In the same time period, REACH gave 1.3 million people more opportunities to be physically active through funding for safe spaces for sports and other activities, and offered 650,000 people tobacco-free interventions.

REACH has also shown concrete capacity to change trends. Between 2009 and 2012, the prevalence of obesity in communities with a REACH presence decreased in comparison to other, similar populations. And between 2001 and 2009, the population of Latinos who reported that they consistently took prescriptions for their hypertension increased from less than half to more than two thirds.

"For 20 years, CDC's REACH program has played an essential role in our fight to reduce health disparities in minority communities," said Rep. Roybal-Allard.  "As Vice Chair of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Public Health Caucus, I'm proud to advocate for funding to promote health equity among all Americans, regardless of skin color, language, or place of birth.  A robustly funded REACH program will continue to be essential if we hope to make true health justice a reality for all Americans."

“While technological and research innovations have greatly improved our lives and health, racial and ethnic health disparities continue to persist. One proven strategy to reducing and eliminating these disparities is community-based and community-focused healthcare,” said Rep. Kelly, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. “For two decades, REACH has been on the frontlines in our communities actively improving the health of millions of our neighbors. As we continue our system-wide efforts to ensure health equity, REACH’s work will continue to be central to our success.”

“From Sickle Cell Disease to increased maternal mortality rates, communities of color face a broad spectrum of health disparities around the country. But thanks to the amazing research at REACH, we’re finally starting to make progress in diagnosing, treating, and preventing these persistent disparities and to improve the health of millions,” said Rep. Lee, chair of the CAPAC Healthcare Task Force.  “We must continue to build on that progress and protect funding for this critical program.”

H.Res. 570 recognizes REACH’s 20th anniversary and urges federal agencies to build upon the community driven work REACH grantees have accomplished.

"The Public Health Institute is delighted to join in celebrating the success and impact of the REACH program over the past two decades,” said Matthew Marsom, vice president of the Public Health Institute. “Across the U.S. people are healthier, and communities are stronger and more resilient because of REACH. Long may it continue."

“For 20 years, REACH has empowered community organizations, including nearly 20 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander serving groups, to address chronic disparities in health,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “From making healthy food accessible for low income families to increasing exercise among their clients, REACH grantees have demonstrated that communities play a critical role in health interventions targeting diverse populations. We look forward to Congress ensuring REACH continues for another 20 years and beyond.”

“Over the past 20 years, REACH has been critical in raising awareness of and addressing racial and ethnic health disparities,” said Neal Denton, SVP, chief government affairs officer, at the YMCA of the USA. “As a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health, the Y urges Congress to continue its strong support of the program to close the gaps and ensure that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code, have the opportunity to live a healthy life and thrive.”

“The successes REACH has made possible over the past 20 years illustrate just how important it is to invest directly in community-led strategies,” said Sana Chehimi, director of policy and advocacy at the Prevention Institute. “Local efforts, like those funded by REACH, reflect community priorities and build on community strengths to support health and wellbeing, and address longstanding health and racial inequities.”

To see the text of the resolution, click here.