The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity presented by the National Civic League (RWJF-NCL Health Equity Award) recognizes individuals who, over the past two years, have sought to address health inequity and improve health outcomes in their community through the implementation of a systems change approach. For the past six years, the RWJF-NCL Health Equity Award has sought to honor individuals helping to create a culture of health in their communities. In addition to a $3,000.00 honorarium, the award also includes recognition at the National Civic League’s annual All-America City Awards ceremony and an invitation to participate in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s yearly Health Equity Award annual learning and recognition event. This year, in the final year of the award, the National Civic League is excited to announce Alma C. Stewart Allen as the 2022 RWJF-NCL Health Equity award winner.
Alma C. Stewart Allen, RN, MS, CCHC has dedicated her professional and personal life to improving experiences of health and well-being for the most vulnerable members of her community. Through her work as a registered nurse, civil servant, entrepreneur, and public health advocate, Alma continuously recognized inequities in individual and community health that could often be attributed to systemic gaps in resources and care. After retirement from the state of Louisiana, she founded the Louisiana Center for Health Equity (LCHE), a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the increasing disparities in health and well-being across Louisiana. LCHE represents the interest of health equity by promoting the elimination of health disparities caused by poverty, lack of access to quality health care, and unhealthy environmental conditions. Alma has partnered with community members, local and state leaders, and other organizations to launch several programs and initiatives to extend the impact of LCHE such as the LA40by2030, Youth Peace Olympics (YPO), LYFE Teen Summit, LEAD in LYFE League, Louisiana Resources and Educational Assessments for Children’s Health (LA REACH), and other interventions.
During the past few years, as President of LCHE, Alma has led an organizational focus on youth and conditions directly contributing to inequities in lifespan and health outcomes for youth across the state of Louisiana. This focus resulted directly from community-informed and community-directed discussions that produced the LEAD in LYFE League (LEAD), a teen program to promote leadership and advocacy in youth ages 13 to 18. For this initiative, LCHE partnered with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Louisiana State Conference and the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), a group of teens appointed from across the state to represent the experiences and interests of youth in the development of policy and programs to give students the opportunity to provide insights into the needs of Louisiana youth. LEAD teens prioritized their concerns about school educational environments. The quality gap in funding and education, mental health awareness in schools, gun violence on school campuses, bullying, and zero-tolerance policies were determined to be areas of most concern, particularly for black and brown youth and for youth from less-resourced communities. LCHE worked with students to develop student presentations and policy recommendations for presentation to a panel of policymakers and education leaders. A direct result of these efforts was the Louisiana Resources and Educational Assessments for Children’s Health (LA REACH). LA REACH, designed to ensure youth concerns are addressed in action, is a two-phase program designed to improve school environments and student performance, including decreasing student suspensions and expulsions, increasing graduation rates, increasing mental health awareness and resources, and creating safer and more positive educational environments that promote learning, and increasing student GPAs and standardized test scores.
As a researcher and public health advocate, Alma has strengthened the base of knowledge, and community network, on health inequity work in Louisiana. In building up community health resources, leadership, and education, Alma’s work has contributed significantly to advancing health equity in communities across Louisiana and in the United States.