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OHS Awarded Office of Minority Health Grant


November 2, 2020




Hartford – The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) Executive Director Victoria Veltri is proud to announce the agency has been awarded a federal grant from the Office of Minority Health (OMH).


The grant is focused on advancing modified interventions targeted to redress health inequities with two of the state’s Health Enhancement Communities (HECs). The grant also allows for evaluation of the modified interventions to support sustainability and standardization efforts.


According to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings, Connecticut ranks 41st among all states for disparities in health status, even while ranking as the 4th healthiest state in the country. The significant disparities in Connecticut based on race, ethnicity, and other factors deprive many residents of an equal opportunity to health and wellbeing.


To help address this gap, the initiative focuses on two health equity concerns: 1) reducing maternal morbidity and mortality events for pregnant women of color, and 2) increasing access to nutrition education and nutritious foods for Native Americans with diabetes or prediabetes that are residents of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

“The value of this grant, beyond any dollar figure, will be measured by the success of interventions to address very high maternal mortality and morbidity rates among African-American/Black and Latina women of Connecticut,” Veltri said. “We also intend to make nutrition education and counseling available to those in Connecticut’s Native American communities where cases of diabetes and pre-diabetes are more prevalent.

The Office of Health Equity, housed in the state Department of Public Health (DPH), is partnering with OHS on the initiative. Director of the Office of Health Equity, Orlando Velazco said, “The Office of Health Equity is excited to work along with OHS in identifying and addressing the barriers that disproportionately impact maternal mortality rates among black mothers more than three-fold than that of white mothers in our state while employing a place-based approach to promote the inclusion of community input, and working with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to ensure that culturally-appropriate messaging and initiatives are established to expand access to healthy foods and lifestyles that will have a lasting positive health outcome for this population for generations to come.”


Additionally, this grant is building on an established OHS partnership with two of the Health Enhancement Communities: the Greater Middletown HEC, and the Eastern Connecticut Health Collaborative (ECHC) HEC, each of which already serves the respective, identified at-risk groups.


“The ECHC and United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is energized with this grant award and geared up to begin immediately… these funds will allow our collaborative of 31 community agencies, health districts, and local municipal government to experiment with new and creative ways to increase positive health outcomes for minority communities in our 13-town region centered around Norwich and Windham,” said Scott Umbel, the Community Impact Director for the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and a member of the ECHC HEC.


“Together, we look to positively impact the 1 in 3 high-risk pregnant women in our region who seek assistance and alarming to all, a 300% higher rate of maternal mortality amongst women of color in our region” Umbel said. “Additionally, a unique new approach to diabetes prevention using virtual platforms and locally grown foods as a prescription.”

“It is such a great and exciting win-win situation when the church, state, community residents and community-based organizations are working together to ensure that every child has a healthy start,” said Rev. Robyn Anderson, of Middletown’s Cross Street AME Zion Church. “The Greater Middletown Health Enhancement Community and Ministerial Health Fellowship are extremely delighted to partner with Middlesex Health and the Community Health Center, Inc. to improve the nutrition and health of at-risk African-American and Latina pregnant women by engaging community health workers/doulas. Through these efforts, we are looking forward to decreasing the low birth weight rate and improving maternal and child morbidity and mortality.”

"This grant recognizes the important work the state's partners like the Eastern Connecticut Health Collaborative HEC and Greater Middletown HEC are doing to improve maternal health and reduce health disparities, a focus that is more important than ever given the impact of COVID-19 on families throughout our state," said Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven, a New Haven-based non-profit organization. "In collaboration with Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith and her team of researchers and data analysts at the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale University, our organization looks forward to continuing to capture data on recent trends in the region, and to supporting the program's evaluation and learning activities that will inform opportunities to sustain and expand this important work."

The Office of Minority Health grant was awarded by the OASH (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health) from its CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance). The awarded grant amount is approximately $300,000 a year, for two years, with an optional third year dependent on outcomes.


These federal funds will underwrite community work to be done over the next two years, with a final report due December 28, 2022.