Leaders from New Haven community-based organizations met in July to launch the Community Health Equity Accelerator (CHEA), an innovative research program that unites leaders across multiple domains to tackle health equity issues in greater New Haven and beyond. This initiative brings together diverse experts from those organizations, local and state government, Yale-affiliated faculty and staff, and health system and hospital leadership to work together and address health issues that have a significant impact on New Haven communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the dire need to address health inequities and an opportunity for a holistic approach through partnership with leaders across community, research, and health care domains. CHEA was developed to champion programs and scholarship that are developed by the community and directly address the serious health needs of greater New Haven and beyond, with an emphasis on health equity.
A Guiding Coalition of community leaders was established through collaboration of the Center for Research Engagement (CRE) Steering Committee and CHEA lead partners Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and Yale New Haven Health System. Supported by a Yale School of Medicine institutional investment, the initiative will launch three project cycles to identify, evaluate, and implement strategic and scalable health equity interventions on an accelerated timeline—a flourish or fail fast model.
Each 18-month cycle will focus on a different community-identified health priority. The first will be pediatric asthma, which the CRE Steering Committee has identified as a priority area where urgent intervention is required. Daniel Sarpong, PhD, executive director of the Yale School of Medicine Office of Health Equity Research, says the beauty of CHEA’s approach is that leaders of the initiative will quickly determine the efficacy of the approaches they try. “If we see positive results, we will scale up,” he says. “If we don’t, we will de-implement. The goal is to prioritize community health and it is exciting to see an initiative informed by that community at every step. This is what it means to lead with equity.”
At the July meeting, leaders from CHEA—including Guiding Coalition Co-chairs Virginia Spell (representing the Urban League of Southern Connecticut) and Amos Smith (representing the Community Action Agency of New Haven)—joined Sarpong and Yale’s Associate Dean of Health Equity Research Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, to outline their interdisciplinary, action-oriented approach to cohesively address health equity in the community at multiple levels.
Smith said this is an important moment. “CHEA provides a unique opportunity for Yale and community representatives to advance knowledge, training, and set a community-driven research agenda to eliminate health disparities and improve health equity”
The Guiding Coalition will release a call for pediatric asthma project proposals late this fall, with award decisions announced in winter, with the Office of Health Equity Research providing technical assistance and program management. The short-term goal is to spark lively engagement, generate innovative problem solving, and identify relevant multi-leveled solutions for this area’s communities.
Longer-term, the expectation is to implement solutions at scale, evaluate improved outcomes relative to specific diseases, and—as Nunez-Smith notes—serve as a national example for successful community-academic partnerships. “It’s exciting to have community at the center of this endeavor,” says Nunez-Smith. “This multisectoral collaboration can serve as a national model of how to conduct health equity research. Our greatest hope is that this new paradigm shift will be sustainable.”