Health Department’s Center for Health Equity and Department of Cultural Affairs To Host “What Creates Health? A Community Conversation” Tomorrow

The Summit will be held at Hostos Community College from 12:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Event brings together activists, artists and community partners to discuss what shapes health in their communities

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September 23, 2016 – The Health Department’s Center for Health Equity and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs will host a free summit that will bring together activists, organizers, health leaders and local artists to discuss what shapes health in their communities this Saturday, September 24th. “What Creates Health? A Community Conversation” will showcase community stories and efforts to address health disparities, foster reflection and dialogue about social and racial justice, and highlight the critical role of art and activism in eliminating the stark and unjust differences in health and wellness that exist between New York City neighborhoods and New Yorkers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic status.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett will serve as the keynote speaker at 5:00 p.m. Activists and advocates from Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights organizations, food justice and progressive primary care initiatives, will come together to speak about the root causes of health inequities, as well as approaches to eliminate them through new partnerships, innovative uses of data and storytelling, and key investments in areas that bear disproportionate burdens of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and toxic stress. The City’s ThriveNYC initiative will also be on hand, highlighting the importance of talking openly about mental health and wellness.

“It’s wonderful to see representatives from diverse groups of stakeholders in our community coming together to start a conversation about how to address the unacceptable health inequities in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “All sectors of society play a role in a community’s health outcomes, and together, we can advocate for change. Today’s event is an important step in our mission to improve health outcomes for all New Yorkers.”

“This exciting summit embraces the power of art and creativity to explore and address the issues facing our communities holistically” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “We are proud to work with our colleagues at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and a diverse group of representatives embodying the dynamic neighborhoods of New York for this important conversation at Hostos. Together, we can build on our communities’ strengths for a healthier, more vibrant future for all New Yorkers.”

“This is the first time we’re gathering the arts and activists together to focus on health issues,” said the Director of the Center for Health Equity Dr. Aletha Maybank. “The Center for Health Equity is honored to sit at the table with the cultural arts community who are showing a commitment to addressing health inequities together across New York City.”

“Hostos takes its role in promoting and educating our students and the community about healthy lifestyles very seriously,” said Hostos Community College President Dr. David Gómez. “We are thrilled to be chosen as the site for this collaboration between education, art and activism, and our experts are equally excited to participate. As our borough continues to make health issues a high priority, Hostos will continue to serve the community, whenever and wherever it can.” 

"As the Ranking Member of the Senate's Health Committee, I applaud the Center for Health Equity for hosting the "What Creates Health? A Community Conversation" summit at Hostos Community College," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "This summit will provide community stakeholders throughout New York City with the unique opportunity to not only discuss the impact that health disparities continue to have especially in low-income and minority communities, but more importantly it will give them a platform to start working together in order to find community driven solutions to eradicate them once for all."

"As the Ranking Member of the New York State Senate, I will continue to work with our government agencies to fight for quality health care services for our senior citizens, and for our families, children, expectant mothers, and homeless New Yorkers,” said State Senator Ruben Díaz.

“As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and it will take an entire community to change the overall health and well-being of Bronx families for the better,” said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner. “Ensuring that we have these conversations about health will help to raise the overall health of all Bronxites, and I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett for holding this all-important Health Summit at Hostos Community College. By talking about the problems that plague our community, such as the high incidences of asthma, obesity, diabetes and HIV, we can enhance the commitment to healthy lifestyles for countless Bronx families.”

“I’m happy that this conversation on creating health is taking place at Hostos Community College,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “Engaging the creative community, health experts and community activists is a refreshing approach to longstanding challenges of poor health outcomes and health disparities.  I have funded parks and recreation, state of the art improvements to community health centers, gun violence prevention, sports, physical and culinary education in our schools to create a healthier community, and I welcome the new ideas and solutions resulting from this event.”

“Arts and culture engage creativity and imagination, heal trauma, break down isolation, connect diverse people, and build community,” said Caron Atlas, Director of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts-NY. “They animate public spaces and increase access to them, support skill development, provide jobs, and spur civic participation. Images and cultural methodologies demystify policy and support activism. They are an integral part of a healthy community.”

Featured Panels and Performances

Panels include Okayplayer's "Alright: A Conversation on Racial, Social Justice & Community Health” featuring Feminista Jones, a mental health social worker and sex-positive feminist writer, Elle Hearns, an activist within the Black Lives Matter movement, Mychal Denzel Smith, the author behind Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s EducationTanya Fields, BLK ProjeK’s executive director, David Caba of Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence, and Mr.Five Mualimm-ak, an activist and co-founder of Incarcerated Nation Corporation.  

NYU Tisch School of the Arts will present "Defining Wholeness and Health through Imagination, Art and Politics" with Pato Herbert, an artist, educator and organizer, Caits Meissner, poet, poly-creative artist and cultural worker, Kyle Searle, writer, educator and creative convener, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, poet and educator, co-moderated by Kathy Engel, poet and educator and Antonio Lyons, performer and production artist.

Attendees can also participate in visioning sessions about the NYC Cultural Plan and open conversations about biking while black and community wellness strategies. The artist Shani Peters will present a restorative space for mothers and caregivers, “Self-Care for Self-Determination Exchange Session for You, Baby, and Loved Ones.” VII Photo Agency's Ron Haviv and Ashley Gilbertson will exhibit a photo essay about the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program. The Alana Institute will present the UNICEF endorsed film, “The Beginning of Life” and there will be live musical performances by M.A.K.U. Soundsystem and Okayplayer's Deva Mahal

Other artists and organizations featured throughout the day are: Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts - NY, Akim Funk Buddha, Aracelis Girmay, 5 Boro Story Project, Virginia Grise Troupe, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, Mujeres En Movimiento, BomboYa, University of Orange, and many more. The event is open to New Yorkers of all ages.

For more information about this event, and to access the complete program, visit:

About the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity

Founded in 2014, the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity amplifies the agency’s work to eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes in neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of chronic disease and premature death. The division takes a number of approaches to invest in key neighborhoods, eliminate the social barriers to good health and advance health equity throughout New York City. The Neighborhood Health Action Centers, opening soon, will better link residents with local primary care and community services. The Action Centers will also provide space for community-based organizations and Health Department staff to work together to advance neighborhood health. For more information, visit The Center for Health Equity page.

Follow the event on social media by using #WhatCreatesHealthNYC and follow the Center for Health Equity by using #NYCHealthEquity



Christopher Miller/Carolina Rodríguez, (347) 396-4177