Thursday, October 22, 2009

AAHI Celebrates Seven Years of Progress

AAHI Committee members Patricia Green, president of BASIA; unknown community member; Jose Marquez, formerly with the California Endowment; Linda Hart, community member

AAHI Committee members from 2004 left to right: Dr. Robert Fick, representative for the Elks; Kim Carter, president Time for Change; Joyce Fairman, and Carl Dameron, president Dameron Communications with Diane Woods in the back row.

Diane Woods, AAHI president, at AAHI San Bernardino presentation in 2005.

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC) will celebrate its last seven years of progress in efforts to reduce health and healthcare disparities in Black communities of the Inland Empire.

The celebration of “Our Past, Present & Future,” takes place in the Henderson Auditorium of San Bernardino Community Hospital, 1800 Western Ave., from 5:30 to 7:30pm., Thursday, October 22. For details call (909) 880-2600 or visit . All are welcomed to attend.

Black churches have had outreach health ministries in the Inland Empire for more than 50 years. Dr. Temetry Lindsey founded the Inland Behavioral Health more than 30 years ago, Dr. V.Diane Woods pointed out. And Gwen Knotts founded Knotts Family Agency shortly after that.

The local branch of the California Black Health Network, in conjunction with the Black newspapers, radio talk shows, and civic organizations, as well as the Inland Empire Black Nurses Association and ethnic physicians of the J W Vines Medical Society have always worked on health issues in the Inland Empire.

More African Americans die from the leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other preventable conditions than any other group. Even African American babies die two to three times more often than other babies.

“Simply put African American males die at an average age of 56, and African American females die at an average age of 62,” said Dr. Woods.

Community leaders who were concerned about this disparity organized the African American Health Initiative in 1998, working with the San Bernardino County Medical Society. In 2003, the Medical Society hired Dr. Woods to head a major countywide planning project for the African American Health Initiative (AAHI).

In 2004, the organization held public forums, conducted surveys, town hall meetings, and one-on-one interviews throughout San Bernardino County; gathering data from more than 1,000 local Black residents investigating why people of African ancestry continue to die much earlier than other ethnic groups; and, to identify what will work to reverse this trend.

 “Much has been accomplished since we started the health planning project in 2003,” said Dr. Woods, founding president and CEO of AAHI-SBC. “We are celebrating successful positive milestones in Black community collaboration.”

As a result of the AAHI Planning Project, a comprehensive report was developed in 2004 called Voices of the People: An Afrocentric Plan for Better Health. Nine major recommendations were proposed.

Recommendation #3 was to create a credible collaborative to focus on African American health issues. Afterwards, the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC) was created and incorporated as a collaborative of concerned stakeholders in January 2006 to combat these issues.

Since then, AAHI-SBC has strongly promoted change in the healthcare system through advocacy, public education, community capacity building, and research.

Since 2006, AAHI-SBC has been awarded more than a million dollars to work on health issues. Two recent awards include the California African American Initiative Statewide: HEROICs from the Department of Managed Care Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA) for $149,600; and the California Department of Mental Health Statewide Reducing Disparity Project for African Americans for $411,000.

“The African American community’s most desperate need is capacity,” Dr. Woods explained. “Capacity means having significant funds, dedicated individuals working full-time on complex, multiple problems and solutions, the ability to respond in a timely manner, and suitable facilities and infrastructure to implement appropriate interventions.

“Tremendous efforts on multiple fronts to improve the health delivery system, individual health, and in changing health policies, must be sustained,” said Dr. Woods. “In this era of national change to improve health and healthcare outcomes, seven years seems like an appointed time to celebrate good things done by our local Blacks in our communities. When we remember where we have come from, and celebrate the progress we have made with our eyes steadfast on the future it brings hope. We need a good dose of hope and encouragement every now and then, it’s good for the heart and spirit of a people.”

About the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County
AAHI-SBC is a community-based resource focused solely on improving health among Americans of African ancestry, the poor and under-represented (URM) ethnic minorities in the Inland Empire. Visit to learn more about what self-help groups and others are doing to improve the condition of Blacks. You will also find the history of AAHI-SBC, an extensive list of partners, and activities underway.