Laura Sanders, LMSW, ACSW

Laura SandersCo-founder of the volunteer grassroots organization Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), therapist, lecturer and professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, Laura Sanders wears many hats, several of which converge around the issue of immigrant rights. She co-founded WICIR with her partner, who was undocumented at the founding of WICIR, and other community members, in response to increased levels of immigration enforcement in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Washtenaw County is located within 100 miles of the US-Canada border, which means the region has several border patrol officers and other immigration enforcement officials who are empowered to question and detain residents about their immigration status. This also means the Department of Homeland Security can set up fugitive operation teams to facilitate deportations, which have increased since 9/11. In her role with WICIR, Laura is a community organizer, coordinator and immigrant rights advocate. She works with communities that have experienced numerous immigration raids and heightened surveillance by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), local police, and law enforcement. Immigration enforcement has tightened since 9/11, to the point where Laura calls this issue “perhaps the most intensively negative civil rights issues of our time.” Laura’s dedication to responding to the effects of immigration enforcement on the lives of individuals, families, and communities traumatized by immigration raids, and her and WICIR’s work to create change among law enforcement agencies make her a true public health hero.

Career in Profile

    • 1982 – BA in Women’s Studies, minor in Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
    • 1982 – Youth Employment Counselor, Washtenaw County, MI
    • 1982-1983 – Counselor and Medical Assistant, Womancare, Ypsilanti, MI
    • 1983-1984 – Outreach Health Educator, The Corner Health Center, Ypsilanti, MI
    • 1983-1985 – Co-Director of Women’s Programs, University of Michigan Human Sexuality Office, Ann Arbor, MI
    • 1984-1985 – Project Coordinator, Student Health Advocacy Board, The Corner Health Center, Ypsilanti, MI
    • 1985-1986 – Community Liaison and Administrative Assistant, The Corner Health Center, Ypsilanti, MI
    • 1985-1987 – Health Educator and Project Director, The Corner Health Center, Ypsilanti, MI
    • 1988 – Family Therapist Intern, Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Unit, Children’s Center of Wayne County, Detroit, MI
    • 1988 – Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan School of Social Work
    • 1989-1991 – Therapist, The Family Awareness Center, Adrian, MI
    • 1996-2002 – Associate Clinical Director, Family Assessment Clinic Child Abuse and Neglect Program, University of Michigan School of Social Work, Ann Arbor, MI
    • 2002-2013 – Trainer and Consultant, Vista Maria Residential Treatment Center for Girls and Clara B. Ford School
    • 1994-2012 – Director of Creative Counseling for Families and Youth, Ann Arbor, MI
    • 1991-NOW – Clinical Social Work Therapist, Group Therapist, Program Coordinator, Ann Arbor, MI
    • 1996-NOW – Faculty member at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, Ann Arbor, MI
    • 2008 – Co-Founded Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), Washtenaw County, MI

What inspires you and the work that you do?

My personal values around equality are fundamental to who I am and all the work that I do. But what really inspires me is anger. It angers me to see people mistreated, or that our community and society finds discrimination acceptable! I’m also inspired by my personal experiences. Certainly my relationship with my partner [who was undocumented when we met] has been very inspirational. I’m not sure I would have understood – and been as close to this issue – if I hadn’t met him. Knowing him, being with him, his community becoming a part of my community: this taught me so much. Without him, I don’t know that I would have understood this issue enough to get this close to it.

Our organization keeps me going. And really, what keeps us going is this incredible relationship with the immigrant community, especially the undocumented community. The undocumented community is still very vulnerable to scapegoating and harm by our immigration policies. It’s also inspiring to meet community members, empower people, watch change happen, see policies slowly begin to shift, and work with people to manage the conditions they’re in.

What is a career success or highlight that you are particularly proud of?

In terms of our organization, I’m very proud of our relationship with our county sheriff. We have really struggled to nurture a relationship with the police and our local police force. We take calls from the community when they’re facing immigration issues, and have documented about 480 calls. Of those calls, half include at least one person who has been detained or deported; hundreds of children have lost their parents or significant providing adults. 30% of those detainments and deportations started with some kind of local traffic stop.

So there’s a process by which people end up getting tagged for immigration enforcement through local police involvement. It’s been very important to raise police consciousness around this issue, especially the devastating effects in the community. We’ve also pushed for policy shifts that separate local police enforcement from federal immigration law enforcement. We got a resolution passed in the Ann Arbor City Council that states that the Ann Arbor police will not be involved in immigration enforcement.

But there are thirteen municipalities in Washtenaw County and then there’s also the sheriff. We’ve really nurtured the relationship with our sheriff, and he’s been very communicative with us. A few cases that came to his attention helped him shift internal policy around how the police will deal with immigrants and immigration issues. That feels like effectiveness.

We’ve also worked with the Coalition for Tuition Equality. We have a group of undocumented teenagers who are DREAM Act students, and we participated in running a program called Sueños that brought parents and undocumented students together for mentorship from social work students. That group became a very powerful voice and became involved in tuition equality. We just won tuition equality for undocumented students at the University of Michigan, and for students who are eligible for Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) at Washtenaw Community College! So we see these effects happening. These are small local policies, but we believe that these are very important changes because they’re setting our community up for whenever our government gets around to creating real immigration reform. These changes create a base to make people’s lives a little bit more livable. Unfortunately we’re in this big political quagmire that isn’t delivering on immigration reform right now. So, we think very broadly and globally about immigration issues, but we act locally.

What is a challenge that you’ve faced or you continue to face in your career?

There can be a tension between the micro work and the macro work that WICIR does. One of our missions is to provide urgent response for families facing increased immigration enforcement. So we might get a call from a devastated, crying mother where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has taken her husband on his way to work. He’s disappeared into some detention center. She has no idea where he is, who took him, why he didn’t come home, her three children are all upset and he’s the provider. Her first order of business is to find her husband.

So this is a micro activity – helping one woman and her family. It’s a crisis intervention. On the other end, we could channel all of our energy towards community organizing around immigration reform, because ultimately we need a policy shift to change this situation. So it’s challenging to figure out how much to pay attention to people’s individual needs, and how much energy do we have to shift policy? Keep in mind, we’re a volunteer organization.

I believe that when we meet the needs of the community, we involve the community. The community then becomes more self-sufficient and more engaged, and those most affected engage in community organizing to change policy. That’s certainly how it’s played out over the last five and a half years. We are proud of it, but it’s challenging to do both. It’s very tough to have enough energy to meet people’s individual needs but also work towards systemic change. Some community organizations decide not to bother with people’s individual needs because it’s just becomes too consuming.

We have a diamond that demonstrates the activities of our organization. Urgent response is at the top. If we do this well, we learn what the community needs in order to be well educated. We learn what policies need changing. Policy change is another mission. By this I mean local and national activism towards policy change. A third mission is to bring the undocumented community into the center of the organization, so that they make decisions about our projects. Our organization is a very nice partnership between the undocumented community and the “allied community” – people of privilege who are linked and partnered with the undocumented community to create change. It’s challenging to continually keep the undocumented community in the decision-making role, and I feel very proud of the way our organization has kept that as a primary mission.

When it comes to public health, what matters to you and why?

Access to resources matters most to me. I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a US citizen and how many privileges that truly entails. Undocumented immigration status gets in the way of accessing nearly every resource in every system. The new policy strategy, especially among conservatives, is to put the squeeze on undocumented immigrants until they can’t survive. Then they can “go home.” Many people experience the United States as their home! We’ve always had undocumented migration and we know that. But no one really cared as much as they care about it now. Since 9/11 The Department of Homeland Security has focused on deporting people. The undocumented community has been scapegoated.

About four years ago, the Michigan Secretary of State instituted a rule where you have to have a social security number in order to get a driver’s license. This comes from the federal government’s REAL ID Act. Michigan’s never had that before. People drove without social security numbers, but they could get car insurance which kept people secure. Now, all of a sudden, if you can’t get a driver’s license, you don’t have an updated photo ID, and that means all sorts of resources are no longer accessible. You can’t legally drive. If the police stop you for something legitimate or illegitimate – racial profiling – or maybe you accidentally run a stop sign, then you’ve got another problem.

Access to resources has become increasingly difficult for undocumented people in areas like driving, health care, and school including access to education, higher education, and financial aid. People are afraid to go to the doctor or the hospital because of their undocumented immigration status. You can get food stamps if you’ve got US citizen children. Otherwise, there are no benefits. We give them a Tax ID Number so they can pay taxes, but we won’t give them a Social Security Number so that they can reap the benefits of paying taxes. It’s silly to say that undocumented people are sucking up our benefits. They’re not eligible for most of them! That’s a major public health issue. The ability to function in the various systems that we interact with daily. All those systems we take for granted, like the ability to have a valid driver’s license or access health and dental care.

Is there a persistent public health problem that still concerns you today?

This may seem like a stretch, but I’m very concerned with our very broken immigration policy, our broken system, and the politics behind it. The undocumented Latino community has been particularly targeted and scapegoated. Until 9/11, we never really had a Department of Homeland Security. Then, we poured a lot of money into that department to prevent terrorism. This is a bit simplistic, but there aren’t that many terrorists to go after, and because so much money was moved towards the Department of Homeland Security, their mission shifted to also focus on the US-Mexico border.

That border happens to be the world’s largest land border between a more developed country and a less-developed country. Whenever you have that situation you’ll definitely have people coming over the border. Our free trade agreements have contributed to the problem by exacerbating poverty in Mexico, Central, and South American countries. Our large US-subsidized agricultural companies put a lot of small farmers out of business. We’re focused on locking down the border, but we’re contributing to the conditions that drive illegal immigration.

There’s just a lot of economic and immigration enforcement policy that needs to be rethought and reworked. This immigration policy is very, very broken. My spouse had an approved application and he waited 16 years for a visa. He would have had to wait 23 years. If you’re in a drastic situation and trying to improve your life, you can’t wait that long. The system is broken for the people who need it. It’s not broken for the businessmen and the others who benefit from undocumented labor and the way the system is set up. Privileged people have benefited. There may not be much impetus to change.

On that notion, what do you think it will take to address this issue of the broken immigration system?

It will take a Congress that’s willing to work – realistically – on something. We’ll need continued organizing and empowerment of the affected community. Change comes from the bottom up for almost any civil rights issue, as opposed to a top down decision made by policymakers. Although I’m frustrated that comprehensive immigration reform has not moved faster, the reform packages we’ve seen so far have included things like an additional $40 billion for border patrol. That will only result in more undocumented immigrants’ deaths as those at the border try to hide and survive. Increased border enforcement and fences have resulted in increased immigrant deaths because people were pushed into more and more dangerous areas. You’re not going to stop undocumented immigration, so you might as well work with a policy that helps. Border enforcement does not.

So even though I’m unhappy with the lack of movement around immigration reform, we also don’t want a bad bill that worsens conditions for immigrants. The more time it takes, the more education and organization occurs at the grass roots level. The DREAM Act students – the young, undocumented youth – have made so much progress in their organizing efforts. The issues they brought to light won the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival policy from President Obama. That’s one indication that grassroots level work creates real, sustainable change. So often we see a Band-Aid approach, or a policy with so many compromises that it’s not even good for the community.

Bob Prentice, MA, PhD

Bob photo 2When Dr. Bob Prentice, PhD, finished his graduate work in Sociology at Michigan State, he packed up his van and drove to San Francisco. Eventually, he landed in the San Francisco Department of Public Health, where he worked for eighteen years, including a five-year tenure as the Director of the Public Health Division. From there, he co-founded and became the Director of the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII), a collaboration of eleven local health departments in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. He also served as Senior Associate for Public Health Policy & Practice at the Public Health Institute. Dr. Prentice’s commitment to re-envisioning public health within a social justice context, including his groundbreaking work expanding public health partnerships into fields like land use, air quality management, and transportation policy, make him a noteworthy public health hero.

Career in Profile

  • 1967 – Completed BA in Social Science, Michigan State University
  • 1972 – Completed MA in Sociology, Michigan State University
  • 1982 – Completed PhD in Sociology, Michigan State University
  • 1988-1991 – Coordinator of Homeless Programs, City and County of San Francisco, Mayor’s Office
  • 1982-1996 – Multiple positions with San Francisco Department of Public Health (Health Program Planner, Director of Indigent Programs, Director of Homeless Programs, Director of Community-oriented Primary Care)
  • 1994-1999 – Director, Public Health Division, San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • 1999-2011 – Senior Associate for Public Health Policy & Practice, Public Health Institute
  • 2005-2011 – Director, Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII)


Can you talk about a career or success or highlight?

The Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII) is a regional collaborative in the San Francisco Bay Area with a mission to transform public health practice to eliminate health inequities and create healthy communities. We started out as a series of conversations between the Public Health Officers and Public Health Directors of three counties (San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa). Back then, we didn’t have the granular data that we have now – I couldn’t have told you that people in Bayiew/Hunters Point (a low-income San Francisco neighborhood) have a 14 year lower life expectancy than people in Russian Hill (an affluent San Francisco neighborhood). But we knew that there wasn’t just a randomness to that, it was tied to other things about those neighborhoods. We were all 60’s activists as well as public health professionals and this was not acceptable.

We now know that 10-15% of that disparity comes from health care. So what accounts for the rest of it? That question opens up the possibility of public health involvement outside the traditional realm of public health programs. BARHII partnered with environmental justice groups to push for improved policies in land use, air quality and public transportation. Those agencies were so used to hearing from the environmental justice groups that their meetings almost felt predictable. But BARHII changed the dynamics because we could argue for changes in public transportation policy by saying, “Unless we do something differently, 1 out of 3 babies born in 2000 will develop diabetes in some point in their life – and closer to 1 out of 2 for African Americans and Latinos.”

Environmental justice and public health both argued for improved public transportation and more stringent air quality targets, but we had different approaches to advancing our positions, which were worked out together prior to public testimony. Because we reframed the debate to include public health, the public officials heard these arguments differently. The air quality management district hadn’t always been sympathetic to environmental justice concerns, but as advocates for public health, they’ve come around.

A decade later, it’s pretty well established that public health has an important role in land use. But that’s just a starting point for all the factors that go into making a neighborhood like Bayview/Hunters Point. What about employment, gentrification, the tax code, public housing? Those are large scale changes over a long period of time, but I think that’s where the field has to go. We’re just getting started here.

What is a persistent challenge that you see in the field?

Ever since the Reagan administration, a strong political current is that our nation’s collective purpose is to minimize the role of government in every aspect of life. Well, except for the military and sex. That’s made it incredibly difficult to work in a public health department. It’s not just the budget. It’s the ability, as a public agency, to move aggressively in a social or political realm. If public opinion wants to minimize the role of government, how do you do that? Take the idea of regulating sugar-sweetened beverages. It’s not just about fast food and obesity, it’s about the fact that a public agency dares to interfere with people’s lives. Tax and regulate sodas? That’s the nanny state!

Unfortunately, that’s the environment we’re working in. My vision of public health means the field needs to be more aggressive about going into new territory, and it’s not even clear that we have permission to do what we’re doing right now. At least in many people’s minds. The real dilemma is that most factors that really influence health are beyond the purview of health departments. We have to learn to work in other people’s territory, and often, we are not welcome. We have to learn how to deal with that strategically!

Do you have any thoughts on what it will take to address this?

We need to have a strong relationship with the community. We need to work with them as allies in a strategic relationship: they contribute their insights from living in the communities, we contribute data or scientific evidence and public health perspectives. We talk to each other. We weigh in with our respective credibility when major decisions come up. We need partners within the community and other departments who can create the opening for public health participation. Whereas if public health tried to walk in on its own, we might not be welcome.

Regional collaboratives like BARHII are also useful. In BARHII, we used to say: if one health department does it, you’ve established a precedent. We understood local political constraints might mean that Alameda County could do certain things that Solano County or San Mateo County couldn’t do – yet – but eventually, we could leverage the regional precedents to establish a new standard of practice. Our perspective was: Go for it! Take it as far as you can! Let us look in on your work, applaud it, and then use your precedent to help all of us claim legitimacy. For example, Alameda County was one of the first health departments to hire community organizers, but that idea is being embraced in other jurisdictions as well. So regional groupings help move beyond local political constraints. They help all participating health departments think strategically about these structural issues.

BARHII’s influence is not just regional. Other jurisdictions, such as Minnesota and West Virginia, are also embracing health equity, so there is a basis for communication on a national scale. Of course, we had a lot of difficulties, it wasn’t a uniform success. But we wanted to influence the field. Not out of organizational egoism, but the longer we’re outliers, the longer it’s difficult to do the work. If more places engaged in similar work, that established legitimacy to our efforts. It’s like that idea of local health departments establishing precedents within BARHII, but on a national scale. More people doing this work means we can push the field even farther.

Emma Rodgers, MS

Emma RodgersAs a Program Coordinator for the Partnership for a Healthier Bronx at Bronx Health REACH , Emma Rodgers helps to lead a community-based coalition that is working to reduce disparities in health outcomes in the Bronx. Emma attributes her passion for her work to the people, organizations, and spirit of residents and leaders in the Bronx and her family’s positive and negative experiences in the US health system. Emma’s recognition that stress is a major factor in the health outcomes of residents in the Bronx and her conviction for involving communities at the forefront of public health strategies to reduce health inequities contribute to our great respect for her and her work. Emma’s experiences reflect the opportunities and challenges of sustaining coalition-based work to address persistent health inequities.

Career in Profile

    • 2004 – BA in Government from Smith College, Northhampton, MA
    • 2004-2006 – Marketing Coordinator, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, NY
    • 2006-2008 – Associate Director of Planning and Buying, HN Media & Marketing, New York, NY
    • 2009-2010 – Intern, Division of Violence Prevention, Boston Public Health Commission, Boston, MA
    • 2010 – Graduated with a M.S. in Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
    • 2010-2012 – Borough Organizer, Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership, New York City Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, Bronx, NY
    • 2013-NOW – Adjunct Professor, Bronx Community College, Bronx, NY
    • 2012-NOW – Program Coordinator for the Partnership for a Healthier Bronx, Bronx Health REACH, Institute for Family Health, New York, NY

What inspires you and the work that you do?

I would say it’s the resilient and magnificent residents and organizations of the South Bronx. The South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the country. We’re the hungriest, most obese, most overweight – all of these things that say it’s a terrible place to live, to go to school, to work, raise a family. And yet there are so many amazing people and organizations doing wonderful things. This includes community members who recently became Zumba instructors and are advocating to improve their local park.  There’s also an affordable housing provider who, in addition to creating a new green, mixed-use development that will have a rooftop farm, supermarket, music and recreation center and affordable housing, is also looking to promote bike lanes, and to create a business improvement district. It is really an exciting time in the South Bronx. I feel very privileged to be part of this community and blessed that residents and organizations have included me in their families and in the work that they’re doing.

A lot of your work involves engaging community members and it follows a community organizing strategy. What inspires this approach to your work?

Historically, residents of the South Bronx and other low-income communities have not been involved in most aspects of public health programs. Outsiders, much like myself, would come into the community, identify the needs and the solutions, and implement programs without ever consulting the community. The community is an afterthought, a box that you check when you’ve done focus groups to make sure your program is on the right path. The community is never part of the process and more importantly, they’re never leading the process. In turn, many of these programs have not addressed the real needs of the community, never included culturally appropriate activities and materials, and the programs were unsuccessful and/or unsustainable. Doing true community-based public work might be frustrating to researchers and funders, because it takes longer – ten years, not two, like most grants. However, at the end of the day, it is my experience that these programs are much more successful, because the community is empowered and the real, root causes of these health issues are identified and addressed. Community residents know their community best, not me. At the end of the day, I go home to a different borough and no matter how many years I work in the Bronx and how many degrees I have, I always remember that. My job is to listen and support Bronx residents and organizations in any way that I can to make sure the health of Bronx residents improves.

What is a career success that you’re particularly proud of?

One of the primary goals of the initiative that I’m funded under is to create a borough-wide coalition. Much of my time is spent engaging partners, residents, and city agencies in other parts of the borough where my organization traditionally didn’t work. Last year, I was really proud of the work our group did around increasing access to healthy food. Many areas of the Bronx are food deserts or food swamps. Although fantastic new supermarkets are popping up every year, many communities still do not have access to healthy food in their neighborhood – bodegas and fast food restaurants are their only options. When I started my job, I had very little experience working in the food arena. Our funders wanted us to continue to “adopt” bodegas to transform them into healthy food retailers. However, despite the lack of healthy food, this initiative didn’t make much sense to me as our organizations didn’t have the capacity to help hundreds of individual bodegas and there already seemed to be a lot of organizations doing this work. Instead, we felt we would be much more helpful if we tried to coordinate the existing bodega work, which seemed abundant, but disorganized. It was common for two organizations in the same neighborhood to be doing similar programs, yet neither would know about the other. So, for the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time identifying which groups were doing the work, what resources each group had, what were the most successful programs, and how we could all work together to reach more people and create better programs. To my delight, most of the community groups and city agencies that I reached out to were thrilled to partner with other groups and be part of our larger coalition’s efforts. These organizations met monthly for almost a year, developed joint evaluation tools, shared best practices and many of the groups are now working together on joint bodega initiatives. Although there were many bumps in the road, this was a big win for the Bronx and my program.

What are some challenges that you’ve encountered or that you may continue to face in your career?

Funding is a big challenge. Despite the fact that community organizing is once again “hip” thanks to President Obama and many grant applications require community engagement, there is still very little funding for the work that I do — the pot of money is getting smaller and smaller and many of these larger initiatives are just not being funded at the same level. For many years, Bronx Health REACH was primarily funded through the REACH program (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That was a very large grant that supported a very large staff and our partners for many years. In 2012, we became a sub-recipient of the Community Transformation Grant from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; however, this was significantly less funding, supporting only a few staff members. To top it all off, we just received word that the grant will end next fall, two years before it was expected to end.

Another major big challenge is that I’m not allowed to do policy and advocacy work, because I’m funded through the Affordable Care Act. All I can really do is educate people about different health issues and programs and hope that these community groups and residents will take their concerns to their elected officials and they will create legislation or increase funding for health programs. This is very frustrating, because I know that legislation is an extremely effective way to improve the health of a large community – a population-based approach is more effective and cheaper than going door to door. Also, it’s a lot to ask people who have kids, 3 jobs, and other major life stressors to do this work in their very limited free time. I understand why my funding prohibits me from working on policy. However, again, for people who have been doing this work for a long time and know what works, it’s very frustrating.

Finally, from an organizing standpoint, it’s hard to create a coalition when the “peaks” in your campaign are fairly small – an event, creating a curriculum, etc. Advocacy campaigns are exciting, have clear goals – they are something concrete that your community partners can rally around. In some ways, I think our coalition members are not as active right now, because there isn’t a specific campaign that we’re all working on together.

When it comes to public health, what matters to you and why?

Having the community at the forefront of what we do, especially in low-income communities. I think that in addition to making our programs more successful, you can’t morally do a program without having the community be at the forefront of the work. Also, again, it is important to increase funding for programs that focus on reducing health disparities in our country. I feel very privileged to live and work in a city where public health is a priority. Although much progress has been made, it is maddening how different a child’s life can be in one neighborhood versus the next. It’s unacceptable. I am hopeful though with our new Mayor. Finally, there continues to be limited funding for mental health programs and continued stigma around mental health issues in general. In the communities where I work and among my own family and friends, there is such a great need for mental health services. Despite increased attention these last few years, we have a long way to go.

Is there a persistent public health problem that still concerns you?

The challenge in many ways is that a lot of the health issues that are important to me and to others are rooted in poverty. The head of the Bronx District Public Health Office once famously said, ‘The Health Department shouldn’t be called the Health Department. It should be called the Department of Poverty Reduction.’ If we could possibly solve that problem, so many things would be fixed. It’s going to be a long time before an equitable society exists, but I’m encouraged by conversations with community leaders and organizations and grant applications that require public health groups to engage multiple sectors in their work and develop programs that properly address the root causes of health inequities in this country. My most exiting and impactful programs are those that include schools, housing providers, transportation and other sectors.

On the flip side, one of the big successes is tobacco control. The 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s report was released in January. When you think about how far we’ve come in this country – especially in New York City — with regards to smoking, it’s pretty amazing. The Bronx is tied with Brooklyn for the second lowest youth smoking rate in New York City at 6.7%. This is a real bright spot for the Bronx and the country.