Special Initiatives


New Orleans Updates


New Orleans Area Updates

New Orleans Area Health Disparities Initiative

A coalition of New Orleans area based and national racial and environmental justice, legal and health research and advocacy organizations will convene an invitational meeting on June 12, 2006, to address the post-Katrina rebuilding process with the aim of creating safer and healthier communities.  The meeting venue is the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 2 Poydras Streets, from 8:30am-5:00pm.




The June 12, 2006 meeting is one of a series of regional meetings organized by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) along with the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Alliance for Healthy Homes.  The purpose is to highlight local responses to health disparities challenges in communities of color.  The meetings are intended to bring together public health researchers, health care providers, community organizers, legal services and civil rights lawyers, social scientists, urban and regional planners, policy advocates, environmental justice advocates, advocates for healthy and affordable housing, and local elected and appointed officials.  Interdisciplinary participants will share and learn about their common work and common ground in order to better understand and redress health disparities.


            Health is holistically defined in this initiative to include all social, environmental and health care systems (mental, physical and public) that disproportionately burden low-income people of color. Examples of health in this context span such environmental health hazards as those posed by multiple contaminant sources in housing, schools, the workplaces of low-income communities of color and prisons with disparate numbers of inmates of color.  Health denotes public health; mental health; health care infrastructure, access, and quality; and, most notably, health care results for vulnerable populations such as children, women of child-bearing years, people with disabilities, and the elderly.


            Due to the scrutiny of racial justice issues and health impacts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the New Orleans area is the first site in the series of regional meetings about health disparities. We are also joined in this effort in New Orleans by the Center for Social Inclusion, a New York based organization that provides technical assistance on racial justice issues to local groups around the country.  The one-day meeting on June 12, 2006 and the planning activities leading up to it will launch new collaborations and follow-up initiatives, media coverage and public accountability focused on restoration and a sustainable future for this unique region. 


New Orleans Area Health Disparities Initiative planners and partners include:


Michael Andry, EXCELth, Inc.; Elodia Blanco, Concerned Citizens of Agricultural Street Landfill; Dr. Robert Bullard, Environmental Justice Resource Center; Lura Cayton, Church World Service Emergency Response Program; Johanna Congleton, Louisiana Physicians for Social Responsibility; Veronica Eady, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; AlMarie Ford, LA Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Mental Health;  Steve Fischback, Rhode Island Legal Services; Marcheta Gillam, Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati; Shana Griffin, People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond; Joanne Hale, Church World Service; Rebecca Harris-Smith, New Orleans Black Nurses Association; Albert Huang, Natural Resources Defense Council; Dr. Charlotte Hutton, LA Department of Health & Hospitals – New Orleans Adolescent Hospital; Joy Lewis, Community Environmental Activist St. Bernard Parish; Judith May, REACH 2010: At the Heart of New Orleans/Black Women’s Health Imperative; Mary Lee Orr and David Brown, Louisiana Environmental Network; James Perry, Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center; Erol Quintol, New Orleans Medical Assn; Rev. Cory Sparks, Carrollton United Methodist Church; Wilma Subra, Chemist/Environmental Activist; Dr. Cheryl Taylor, REACH 2010: At the Heart of New Orleans; Phil Tegeler, Poverty Race and Research Action Council; Ranie Thompson, New Orleans Legal Aid Society; Dr. Sheila Webb, Center for Empowered Decision Making; Lynne Wolfe, Center for Social Inclusion; Dr. Beverly Wright, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice; Bob Zdenek and Ralph Scott, Alliance for Healthy Homes.


The Sustainable Community Development Group, Inc. is managing and coordinating the planning process, the June conference, communications and logistics.


New Orleans Meeting June 12, 2006


            The June 12th meeting launches the New Orleans Area Health Disparities Initiative.  The focus of this meeting is health justice:  fairness in targeting resources and redressing structural racism and economic discrimination faced by communities of color and low income communities in New Orleans.   Rebuilding the New Orleans area into safe and healthy communities for all inhabitants will require re-evaluation and re-structuring to eliminate injustices and barriers to health and quality of life. 


            Low-income communities of color systematically subjected to different treatment with respect to the condition of housing, schools, recreational space and economic development are forced to shoulder discriminatory toxic insults, stress and other disproportionate health burdens resulting in health disparities --– increased illnesses, more neurologically-based learning differences and above average premature deaths especially infants and young children.  Health disparities raise the alarm about how communities in the New Orleans area were built and should be rebuilt.


            Healthy people and healthy communities exist where key factors intersect:  access to quality and affordable healthcare – good health insurance and good health care providers, equal and quality treatment, environmental protection, decent housing, a living wage, availability of nutritious food, and positive self-image.  New Orleans now has the opportunity to target resources, implement new social infrastructure and sustainable development that promotes and ensures the civil right to health and quality of life for everyone.


            The June meeting will focus on developing culturally sensitive, proactive strategies aimed at centering health in the reconstruction debates on housing, economic development, employment, education, environmental cleanup, restoration of natural resources, transportation and mobility.  The goal of the New Orleans Area Health Disparities Initiative is to provide collaborative opportunities and a space for local groups and organizations around the nation to identify and address priority issues engage communities, policy makers, the public and private sectors. 


            While participants will determine future objectives of their collaborative work, the meeting will consider the following objectives:


  • Establishing a new framework for understanding and talking about health disparities grounded in the geographic specific history of race and class in the New Orleans area;

  • Building new partnerships and greater alignment for eliminating health disparities which cut across traditional boundaries of health, science, the ambient and built environment, jobs, wages, fair housing and legal services;

  • Implementing new community development and environmental training programs for community leaders;

  • Securing health coverage for all residents of New Orleans;

  • Saving Charity Hospital and similarly challenged New Orleans health care providers and institutions.


For more information, contact Deeohn Ferris, Global Environmental Resources Inc., at

(202) 637-2467 or via email address info@gerinc.com.


New Orleans photos courtesy; Vernice Miller-Travis






June 12, 2006


8:00am – 5:30 pm

Hilton New Orleans Riverside

2 Poydras Streets

New Orleans, Louisiana

8:00am – 8:30am 

Continental Breakfast

8:30am – 9:00am

Welcome and Purpose of Meeting

Welcome and Introductions


  • Deeohn Ferris, J.D., Sustainable Community Development Group, Inc.


Welcoming Remarks


  • Gail Christopher, DN, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

  • Phil Tegeler, J.D., Poverty and Race Research Action Council

  • Robert Zdenek, DPA, Alliance for Healthy Homes


A Review of the Day’s Activities


  • Deeohn Ferris, J.D.


9:00am – 10:00am 

Panel:  Promoting Health Justice:  Opportunities in Healthy Rebuilding of the New Orleans Area


Perspectives on the History and Culture of the New Orleans Area

·         Keith Weldon Medley, Author, “We as Freemen:  Plessy v Ferguson”

Deadly Waiting Game:  Addressing Environmental Health Disparities in Communities of Color

  • Robert Bullard, PhD., Environmental Justice Resource Center

Investments in Human Capital and Healthy Rebuilding in the New Orleans Area

  • Shelia Webb, PhD., Center for Empowered Decision-Making


10:00am – 10:45am


Health Disparities In Context:  What Are The Conditions That Led To The Creation Of Health Disparities In Greater New Orleans And Opportunities For Change?


Plenary Discussion                 Moderator:  Deeohn Ferris, J.D.


10:45am – 11:00am -- Break 

11:00am – 11:30am



Action/Strategy Agenda for Rebuilding Healthy Communities:

What Are The Immediate Priorities That Need To Be Met And Opportunities To Ensure Healthy Rebuilding For All New Orleans Communities?


Healthy Rebuilding:  Strategies To Meet Community Needs


  • Video:   “A Tale of Two Cities”  EXCELth, Inc.            


Long Term Needs Identified Through Community-Based Participatory Research – Rapid

Evaluation and Action for Community Health in Louisiana:  A Model for Assessing and Implementing Community Priorities


  •  Ben Springgate. M.D., MPH, Robert Wood Johnson Scholars Program


11:30am – Noon

Table Discussion:  What Strategies Do We Need to Achieve Our Long-Term Goals?  How to Reconcile Meeting Immediate Needs and Opportunities With Long-Term Planning?

  • Important partnerships 

  • Local group needs and national group’ roles

  • Priorities for  the next (three/six/nine) months


Noon – 12:30pm


Tables Report-Back/Plenary Discussion  Moderator:  Deeohn Ferris, J.D.


12:30pm – 1:30pm



Luncheon Speaker – Gloria WilderBraithwaite, M.D., MPH

1:40pm – 2:15pm

Panel:  Analysis of a Post-Hurricane New Orleans Area Case Study:  Health Disparities, Health Care and Access – Planning, Challenges And Opportunities In The Rebuilding Process



  • Michael Andry, EXCELth, Inc. -- Moderator

  • AlMarie Ford, LCSW, LA Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Mental Health

  • Charlotte Hutton, M.D., LA Department of Health and Hospitals, New Orleans Adolescent Hospital

  • Monir Shalaby, M.D., Medical Director, EXCELth, Inc.

  • Ranie Thompson, J.D., New Orleans Legal Aid Society

  • Beverly Wright, PhD., Deep South Center for Environmental Justice


2:15pm – 3:30pm

Small Groups -- Discussion of Case Study: 


What Does The Case Study Suggest Are The Primary Issues For Rebuilding A Healthy New Orleans For All Communities?  What Strategic Opportunities Exist That We Should Be Taking Advantage Of To Address These Issues And Short- And Long-Term Goals?


1) identifying a few (small number) priority issues to work on next;

2) some (also small number) demands that go with these issues (or at least some principles to guide the work); and

3) some sort of (very basic) structure through which the work can be carried out collaboratively; and

4)  identifying what external and internal (to New Orleans) resources are available to support #3. 



3:30pm – 3:45pm -- Break


3:45pm – 5:30pm

Small Groups Report-Back/Plenary Discussion:  Next Steps      Moderator:  Deeohn Ferris, J.D.

·         What are the commitments outside groups can make to this effort?

·         What kind of structure can we create to continue this effort?

·         Are there any issues we can identify as primary issues to work on?

·         How do we develop a list of Demands around the primary issues identified


5:30pm — Adjourn


Additional Priority Issues/Needs 

    • Health and health care delivery infrastructure

    • Communications, social networks and institutions

    • Community organizing, engagement

    • Mobility, transportation

    • Children’s health and vulnerable populations (e.g., elderly, chronically ill, disabled)

    • Worker safety and health

    • Immigrant populations

    • Legal, advocacy implications

    • Schools issues

    • Intersection of Employment/Jobs, Education, Community Development


Small Group Facilitators

Joann Hale, Church World Service

Al Huang, J.D., Natural Resources Defense Council

Judith May, Reach 2010:  At the Heart of New Orleans

Lynne Wolf, J.D., Center for Social Inclusion

Bob Zdenek, DPA, Alliance for Healthy Homes


Contact:         Deeohn Ferris, Global Environmental Resources Inc.

Phone:            (202) 637-2467

Email:              info@gerinc.com

Website:         www.gerinc.com


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