Grant aims to reduce racial disparities in healthcare in Lowell

LCHC gets $665G to improve care for Southeast Asian and LatinX populations

Lowell Community Health Center employees at the opening of a COVID-19 test site earlier this year in front of the organization’s Jackson Street headquarters. The health center will soon get more than $600,000 in federal grant money to help reduce racial disparities in healthcare in Lowell. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

LOWELL — Less than two weeks after U.S. Rep.Lori Trahan declared “racism is a public health crisis” even though the Lowell City Council does not agree, Trahan on Monday announced that the Lowell Community Health Center will get a $665,000 federal grant to help reduce racial disparities in health care in Lowell.

The grant, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, is aimed specifically at reducing health care disparities among the Southeast Asian and LatinX communities, according to a press release and the program’s website.

REACH is a 21-year-old federal program administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that seeks to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care by funding culturally appropriate initiatives to address issues.

Susan West Levine, the health center’s executive director, said the grant will enable the center to reduce disparities in the Southeast Asian and LatinX communities related to diabetes, hypertension and obesity. She said the center plans to work with the city, health care, social service and community groups in Lowell.

“The funding is particularly timely given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis on racial/ethnic minorities and communities of color,” West Levine said.

Trahan declared racism a public health crisis earlier this month during an online conversation with  U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a nurse and the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress. Underwood is the co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, and a fellow freshman representative along with Trahan. Underwood said black women are twice as likely to die as a result of giving birth than any other racial group, even when adjustments are made to account for income, geographic location, and any other factors.

Trahan made the statement shortly after the Lowell City Council declined, in a 5-4 vote, to declare racism a public health crisis in Lowell.

“Racial disparities continue to persist across our health care system and COVID-19 has only made that worse,” Trahan said in a press release announcing the grant funding. “We are tremendously fortunate to have Lowell Community Health Center and the facility’s incredible team working around the clock every day to provide help to the most vulnerable in our community.”

For more information on the REACH program, click here.