NPHW Forum: "Building Healthy Communities from the Grassroots"

April 1, 2019

The official National Public Health Week Forum, hosted by the American Public Health Association and sponsored by the Aetna Foundation, kicked off NPHW 2019 with an exciting keynote address from reproductive justice expert and advocate Joia Crear-Perry. The event highlighted the importance of grassroots organizing to improve community health. Panelists’ areas of expertise aligned with NPHW daily themes. 


Joia Crear-Perry smilingJoia Crear-Perry, MD, FACOG, is the founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Recently, she addressed the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge a human rights framework to improve maternal mortality. Previously, she served as the executive director of the Birthing Project, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and as the Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department where she was responsible for four facilities that provided health care for the homeless, pediatric, WIC and gynecologic services within the New Orleans clinical service area. Crear-Perry continues to work to improve access and availability of affordable health care to New Orleans’ citizens in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

After receiving her bachelor’s training at Princeton University and Xavier University, Crear-Perry completed her medical degree at Louisiana State University and her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine. She was also recognized as a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Jordan BoydPastor Jordan B. Boyd, MA, of Rockwell A.M.E. Zion Church in Charlotte, N.C., works in and outside of the church teaching, preaching and advocating for the underserved. He has led the church in receiving the Balm in Gilead Healthy Churches Award for 2019 for the promotion of behavior changes toward healthy living among his church and community. He serves as an ambassador for the Village HeartBEAT program, which is a 2019 recipient of the Healthy Cities & Counties Challenge award. During his time at Rockwell, the church has expanded its outreach programs including housing assistance support, food drives and giveaways, job support for persons transitioning from incarceration and free community health screenings. 

Boyd obtained Bachelor of Arts degree from Arkansas State University, and a Master of Arts in Theology from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, in Charlotte, N.C. He works on several clergy coalitions to support affordable housing initiatives, improved education and better health care access through public health.

Carma Lewis smilingAs president of Flint Neighborhoods United, Carma Lewis has become known in the Flint community as the person who has a finger on the pulse of the city and knows what’s going on. Due to her talent for gathering, sharing information and making connections, Lewis was contacted to participate with Mayor Karen Weaver’s Flint Action Coordination Team as the community outreach coordinator. Lewis also sits on the boards of directors for Neighborhood Engagement Hub and Environmental Transformation Center of Flint. She’s also a member of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint Board of Trustees. Her concern for providing excellent customer service is obvious with the people she meets whether sitting in a meeting or getting her hands dirty during any of her volunteer services. Flint is her home, and she plans to continue to be a part of the solution.

Javier William Lopez holding babyJavier William Lopez, recently appointed as the Red Hook Initiative’s first chief strategy officer, has spent the bulk of his career advancing racial, gender, social and economic equity for communities of color. Prior to joining the Red Hook Initiative, Javier served as one of the assistant commissioners at the Center for Health Equity, a division within the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he oversaw the Center’s Racial Justice Program to Policy innovation portfolio. Under his leadership, the academic concept of health equity was put into everyday practice, which led to promising public health advancements via: the centering of community health workers as a health equity workforce; evolving diabetes prevention; changing the narrative around the food retail intervention; and naming gun violence a public health issue. In addition, Javier conceptualized and led New York City’s first Health In All Policy initiative, which brought together New York City’s housing and planning communities to put forward concrete commitments that aimed to address neighborhood health inequities. 

Lopez serves on the board of Radical Health and Nos Quedamos and previously served as a Health Equity Awakened Leadership Institute Fellow at Human Impact Partners. He earned his master's degree in public administration as a member of the nationally recognized National Urban Fellows program. 

Deborah Thomas-SimsDeborah Thomas-Sims is a lifelong resident of the East End of Bridgeport. She served as the director of the Office of Neighborhood Revitalization for the City of Bridgeport where she managed seven established Neighborhood Revitalization Zones. She currently has the pleasure of serving as the community champion of the East End NRZ Pop-Up Market and Café addressing the needs of the longest standing food desert in Bridgeport. The East End NRZ’s Pop-Up Market and Café is a collaborative effort of Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach Equity, the Greater Bridgeport Opportunities Industrialization Center, Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust and Dubay Consulting. The project will compare changes in fruit and vegetable consumption in this neighborhood to changes accomplished in other neighborhoods. 

Steve Sternberg smilingModerator Steve Sternberg is assistant managing editor for Health Initiatives at U.S. News & World Report. Sternberg was instrumental in expanding the U.S. News & World Report hospital rankings and is an architect of the U.S. News’ Healthiest Communities, a population health assessment of roughly 3,000 U.S. counties. He also mines medical data for ground-breaking news stories. His most recent investigative pieces revealed unsafe surgery in U.S. military hospitals worldwide and preventable deaths among children undergoing complex congenital heart surgery in children’s hospitals. 

Sternberg's honors include: Association of Health Care Journalists Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism (2015); Dag Hammarskjold Award for Human Rights Journalism; the American Heart Association’s Howard L. Lewis Lifetime Achievement Award; The National Headliner; the Penney-Missouri award; the Global Health Council Media Award; The Kaiser Family Foundation Media Fellowship and the John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University (1992), where he studied health policy and genetics.

Special thanks to the Aetna Foundation for sponsoring the 2019 NPHW Forum!

logo, Aetna Foundation, purple heart

Georges Benjamin and Jerome Adams smiling


Watch the Surgeon General's 2018 Forum keynote address.

Watch the 2018 panel discussion.

Step it up!

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American Public Health Association