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Healthy Communities News

Author: CVS Health

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All across the United States, people are banding together to create a healthier future. State by state, city by city, and street by street, visionary local leaders strive to solve the nation's most persistent health challenges. Each month, we’ll bring you an inside view of a different community-based health initiative — an honest look at the challenges communities face and the outstanding solutions they’ve found to address them.

Melissa Eagan is the host of the Healthy Communities News podcast, a seasoned audio producer and storyteller, Melissa was a journalist in Rhode Island before joining public radio, where she executive produced talk shows like New York & Company. During her career she has won AP Best Interview and James Beard awards, as well as a Peabody. Now she swims and hikes when she can.

Presented by CVS Health.
38 Episodes
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. In fact, 1 in 5 deaths among women is due to a cardiovascular issue. But many people don’t fully appreciate the particular risks women face when it comes to heart health. In this episode, our host Melissa Eagan speaks with Dr. Joanne Armstrong, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Women's Health and Genomics at CVS Health. Dr. Armstrong explains how heart disease looks different in women and how the reproductive journey can increase lifetime risk. We also hear from Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer at CVS Health. Dr. Khaldun discusses the need for the health care system to move from a one-size-fits-all approach to recognizing the unique needs not only of women but of particular groups of women. “A Black woman is actually more likely to have high blood pressure than a White woman,” she notes. Meanwhile, “Hispanic women are actually twice as likely to have diabetes, which we know contributes to heart disease.” CVS Health is working to improve women’s heart health right in the community through screenings at local CVS MinuteClinics. Minoka McPherson, a family nurse practitioner and a Senior Practice Manager for MinuteClinic, talks to Melissa about the services that they provide. In addition, she discusses how mental health conditions like depression and chronic stress can also be risk factors for heart disease. Learn moreLearn about hands-only CPR training from the American Heart AssociationSchedule an appointment at a MinuteClinic
Reports from the CDC of a potential future surge in the number of young people with type 2 diabetes by 700%, and of type 1 diabetes by 65% over the next four decades is alarming.  But there is cause for hope, thanks to an incredible initiative called Project Power that does empower kids in underserved and underfunded communities across the country on ways to prevent diabetes. Melissa speaks with Eboni Bright, a national project manager based in Washington State (and her 11-year-old daughter Kendall).  As well as Dr. Rinku Sandesara, Medical Director of National Accounts at CVS Health, who explains diabetes for us. 
Fewer families in Denver, Colorado will be going to sleep hungry at night now! That’s thanks to amazing new Goodr pop-up grocery stores that opened recently to service the Denver Public School system’s Colfax Elementary and Place Bridge Academy.  Bolstered by a partnership with sponsors Aetna and Amazon.  And Melissa speaks with Jackie Bell, the Colfax Community Hub Program Manager, Michael Hancock, Mayor of the City of Denver, Jasmine Crowe-Houston, founder and CEO of Goodr, and Rochelle Sawyer, a school counselor at Place Bridge Academy, and 10-year-old Maddie.
Some 350 people came to the Metropolitan Baptist Church’s facility in Newark, New Jersey over the course of a three-day vision clinic recently. They left, not only with a new prescription, but stylish glasses they had chosen – all for free!  This was thanks to the OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation and Aetna, bolstered by members of CVS Health’s Workforce Innovation and Talent Center Team.  Melissa was there, too – and she spoke with Christina Nicastro, the lead director of Aetna Vision, Dawn Yager, program manager with OneSight, and Valdemar Reyes, a senior regional manager of Target Optical.  Not to mention three very happy attendees – who can see much more clearly now!
Dr. Khaldun will lead the strategy to advance health equity for patients, members, providers, customers, and communities, having served as the Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan and Chief Deputy Director for Health in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, where she was responsible for public health and aging programs, Medicaid and behavioral health. She led Michigan’s COVID-19 response and is credited for Michigan’s early identification of and strategy to address disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. 
Reaching out to help prevent suicide will be a lot simpler – starting July 16th – when anyone across the country can just dial “988” to receive lifesaving counsel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And Melissa takes us inside the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center, the nation’s first, which helped make this happen. Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health and Mental Wellbeing for CVS Health Aetna, also discusses collaborating with Didi Hirsch as part of the company’s own initiative to reduce suicide attempts among members 20% by 2025. And we alsohear from Ann Taylor, who volunteers for Didi Hirsch, and is herself a suicide attempt survivor.
A four-story, 36-unit apartment complex that will provide affordable housing is going to be built in the booming Five Points neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.  And Melissa tracks down the story behind Charity’s House, as it will be called -- tracing it back to Thomas “Pistol Pete” Albright, a star pitcher in the Negro Leagues. 
A New Normal?

A New Normal?


As mandates are being lifted across the country after over two years of pandemic waves, it feels like we’re all coming back to life again. But how do we go about finding a new normal? And what exactly does that mean? Melissa speaks with those who are living it, in real time - in New York City. People who make New York a place others flock to, as well as a place millions call home: Tom Birchard from Veselka, Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly from the Irish Repertory Theatre, and Maria Nazzoli from Pearl Oyster Bar.
If suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, why aren’t more people talking openly about it? Melissa does just that, with staff members of the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center, the first of its kind in the U.S. We also hear from Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health and Mental Wellbeing for CVS Health Aetna, who discusses collaborating with Didi Hirsch as part of the company’s own initiative to reduce suicide attempts among members 20% by 2025. And Ann Taylor, who volunteers for Didi Hirsch, and is herself a suicide attempt survivor.
Melissa speaks with Dr. Nitin Gupta, the founder & CEO of Rivertowns Pediatrics in New York, about protecting his community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his own health challenges. He says, “I mirrored [my practice] after the pediatrician I had. He was always available for his patients. If I got sick, I saw him that day.” Dr. Gupta also disputes the common perception that COVID-19 does not affect kids.
While 2021 has certainly been a rollercoaster year, Melissa finds hope throughout this past year’s coverage on the podcast. She shares some of her favorite moments where people across the country have been galvanized to connect in new ways, and to help others, all the more!
The First Wave

The First Wave


What went on inside hospitals during the height of the pandemic? Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman had exclusive access to one of New York’s largest and hardest-hit medical centers for his moving documentary, The First Wave. Melissa speaks with him, as well as subjects Dr. Nathalie Dougé and physical therapist Karl Arabian for an intimate portrait of courage in the face of death and disease, and the toll that takes.
Cory Greenberg had a promising career as a professional bicycle racer ahead of him when he was confronted with inflammatory bowel disease, and suddenly didn’t know if he’d ever be able to ride a bike again, much less compete. Melissa speaks with Cory about his experiences, and founding Ride4IBD, as well as with his Mom, Randi, and Emily Pefanis, Vice President of Specialty Operations at CVS Health — which played a big role in Cory’s recovery.
COVID-19 may have exposed the cracks in our social networks, but an organization called Papa has been filling in — especially for those who are older and isolated. It’s an on-demand service to provide companionship and assistance to those who need it. In this Healthy Communities News podcast episode, host Melissa Eagan speaks with Andrew Parker, Papa founder and CEO in Miami, FL, as well as Papa Pal, Denise Martincic, and her Papa, Miss Deborah Allen, Medicare beneficiary in Waterford, MI.
Now that a new Workforce and Innovation Talent Center (or WITC) has opened in the Hill District community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, host Melissa Eagan speaks with some of those who will make change real, moving forward. Hear from the WITC manager, Sean Ware, a communications and marketing intern already onsite named Julian McGee, and Brett Wormsley, Program Manager at Ebenezer Outreach Ministries and Director of Technology, Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Melissa speaks with John White, Senior Advisor, Workforce Initiatives for CVS Health, and Vincent Campbell, Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church about the WITC launching in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, where the average income is currently between $14,000 and $17,000 a year. As Pastor Campbell says, “If there's a thousand people who need help, and you help one, obviously that's impactful to that one person. But then you have to look 999 people in their face who you couldn't help. What CVS [Health] has done is said that ... that other 999 can now come and get help.”
Melissa speaks with Joel Helle, Vice President of Physician Services about the feasibility of reaching the CDC’s goal of decreasing HIV infections 90% by 2030. She speaks to Marco Benjamin, National Liaison, HIV/Sexual Health at CVS Health, and Jen Laws, a CDC HIV Ambassador and public health policy consultant, who are both HIV positive and working from the ground up to end the HIV epidemic, now 40 years on.
We speak with Stephen Fontz, CVS District Leader, as well asBishop Donte Hickman from the South Baptist Church, which has stood firm against what he calls, “the suburban flight and the urban blight.” He’s been dealing with vaccination hesitancy in his own special way. By way of example, we also hear from one of Pastor Hickman’s congregants, Sonia Sobel, who did change her mind about being vaccinated.
In this episode of Healthy Communities News, we speak in even greater detail with Randy Phelps, as well as Dr. Jonathan Wiesen, a pulmonary physician and critical care specialist who runs COVID-19 emergency rooms. And psychiatrist Dr. Laura Ebner, who had already been volunteering for Give an Hour for years, but couldn’t resist helping these new, often neglected heroes, “If [COVID-19] has taught us anything, it’s that we all have to practice self-care, and that mental health affects us all.”
People of color represent more than 25 percent of the total U.S. population, but only 10 percent of the country’s health care professionals. A new scholarship funded by the CVS Health Foundation and managed by the United Negro College Fund, Inc. (UNCF) hopes to improve that balance. Healthy Communities News spoke to those who helped launch the effort and students who rely on scholarships to help them complete their education.
Comments (5)

Lois Reavis

As the world becomes more connected, it's important to keep our communities healthy. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

Oct 1st

Sheon McLeod


Sep 6th
Reply (3)
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