Buffalo Center For Health Equity: Advocating For Community Voice In American Rescue Plan Allocations

At the Health Foundation, we truly enjoy highlighting our grantee partners and the amazing work that they do. Here is a spotlight from our 2021 annual report: Connections.

The Buffalo Center for Health Equity (BCHE) works to eliminate racial, economic, and geographic-based health inequities in western New York by changing the social and economic conditions that have an impact on health outcomes for people in Buffalo and the surrounding area. When $331 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds was allocated to Buffalo in May 2021, the BCHE team knew this funding was a rare and important opportunity to make lasting, transformational change for the communities it serves—but only if the voice of that community was included in the decision-making process.

The BCHE team formed a community coalition to advocate for these funds to be distributed with a focus on health equity, to ensure long-lasting, system-wide changes were made. The Health Foundation has supported the coalition’s advocacy work as it aligns with our mid-term goal that equitable care and insurance are available and accessible for all people.

The community coalition is made up of organizational leaders from a variety of sectors: community-based organizations, philanthropy, faith leaders, the private sector, and more. Their work has been focused on researching, strategizing, and developing action plans that place equity at the forefront in the distribution of ARP funds and future government dollars allocated to western New York.

Over the summer of 2021, the coalition organized a series of convenings, canvassing, and outreach that provided an opportunity for members of the public to help identify critical community needs. Using this information, the group developed an outline of recommendations that includes strategic approaches and priorities for addressing racial and socioeconomic health disparities in the city of Buffalo and surrounding areas. These recommendations were submitted to local elected officials and public figures who are making decisions on the use of American Rescue Plan funds.

“I am encouraged by how the Health Foundation has recognized the need to include multiple voices from the Black community in order to inform itself how to best invest in real health equity,” shares Pastor George Nicholas of BCHE.

Kyla Carter, an equity consultant with the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, noted that responses from public officials have been minimal so far, though the coalition is continuing to advocate for their recommendations. “While we may not have had the direct response we would have liked, we’ve seen how the work has informed the positionality of local government as it relates to the intersections between health equity, racial disparities, and addressing social determinants of health during COVID-19,” Kyla said.

Kyla notes that the coalition will continue to collaborate in order to build on its existing work and contribute to discussions on how health equity is considered in the use of remaining ARP funds and future public funding.