The Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Action Plan (CHL) launched in January 2021 as a response to the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Black communities in five cities across the U.S. – New York City, Newark, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. In partnership with United Way of New York City (UWNYC), the Hester Street team drew from our extensive experience working with local leaders, community-based organizations, neighborhood institutions, elected officials, and city agencies to support CHL. Our goal was to fortify community infrastructure to address the COVID pandemic in the Black community, strengthen local networks, increase long-term community resilience, and save lives.

CHL leveraged the power of the Black church – a trusted and respected institution in the Black community – to expand access to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, vaccines and other health services in underserved communities. HST led community engagement and capacity building, as well as data and research support to aid church-based Health Navigators as well as citywide Health Navigator Supervisors in executing this unprecedented, decentralized public health organizing campaign.

Our team produced a range of responsive engagement tools, resources, and trainings to support CHL outreach efforts within the shifting landscape of the pandemic, including Digital Asset Maps for each focus city (New York City, Newark, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.). We also developed user-friendly tools to visualize collected data and enable CHL partners to track their progress and course-correct as needed. HST built UWNYC’s capacity to provide program support to partners through regular workshops and office hours, and facilitated troubleshooting sessions and training on how to use our tools. Finally, we developed a centralized resource website hosting data tracking tools, messaging materials, how-to-guides, and more, to improve CHL program’s ability to support churches.

In February 2022, Hester Street released Choose Healthy Life: Capacity-Building for Health Equity in the COVID-19 Pandemic, a final report on the project that detailed activities, key takeaways, recommendations for future programs, and more.