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Gillibrand announces legislation addressing disparities in access to health care

Dr. LaVonne Ansari flanked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Niagara Falls Mayor Rob Restaino, Congressman Tim Kennedy and Pastor George Nicholas
Thomas O'Neil-White
Dr. LaVonne Ansari flanked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Niagara Falls Mayor Rob Restaino, Congressman Tim Kennedy and Pastor George Nicholas

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Niagara Falls Wednesday announcing legislation to tackle racial disparities in health care access at the grassroots level.

The Health Equity Innovation Act would establish a grant program providing federal funding to community and religious-based organizations.

African Americans continue to suffer from heart disease, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases at disproportional rates.

Gillibrand is seeking $50 million in the government funding bill for the fiscal year 2025.

“Funding that this program would provide to faith and community-based organizations can be used to pay for everything from free and low-cost health screenings to vaccinations, health services, referrals and more,” she said. “In addition to this, I support the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which includes my Mom's Matter Act. This bill would invest in community-based programs that provide mental and behavioral health treatment and funding to diversify the maternal mental health and substance use disorder workforce.”

Community Health Center of Buffalo C.E.O. Dr. LaVonne Ansari said the persistence of racist medical science developed during the days of enslavement has set the Black community back generations.

“The persistence of racial medical beliefs and their association with ongoing racial disparities in treatment and patient outcomes continues to be a major challenge for our 21st century,” she said. “This is why we're here today. Every day we are reminded of the importance of healthcare. We also know that healthcare disparities are not random occurrences, but the result of deeply rooted, structural cultural inequalities.”

But Ansari said there is good news.

“Health disparities are preventable,” she said. “The Health Equity Innovation Act is a crucial step in this direction, focusing on fair, just opportunities for health wellness and addressing the root causes of healthcare disparities. The Health Equity Innovation Act is an opportunity to drive grassroots, community-based healthcare where people live.”

Ansari added that what drives health equity is closing those disparity gaps through quality of care, communication, connectivity and education.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.