Boston Public Health Commission Introduces the Community Health Equity Empowerment Fund

Special to the Patriot Bridge

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC)  announced the creation of the Community Health Equity Empowerment Fund (CHEE Fund), a new initiative that will provide grants to local non-profits and community-based organizations (CBOs) working to advance health equity through prevention, intervention, and response services. Using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), BPHC will distribute a total of $1 million in CHEE grants this year, equating to $200,000 per awarded organization.  BPHC has issued a request for proposal (RFP) that Boston-based organizations can complete to apply for funding. The deadline for the RFP is August 18 at 5pm.  

In conjunction with BPHC, grantees will develop strategies to connect or reengage residents in health care, increase access to prevention strategies, and improve social determinants of health. The funds awarded through CHEE must be used to help embed sustainable, consistent, and fundamental resources that promote and maintain health equity in communities with the greatest need. The CHEE Fund is a product of BPHC’s Advancing Health Equity Framework (2020-2023), which aims to address the need for greater community empowerment and involvement to promote health equity in Boston’s most vulnerable neighborhoods by providing residents with fair access to the resources that promote and protect the best possible health. 

“One of the most important lessons learned during COVID-19 is that community-based organizations and coalitions are essential to advancing health equity,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Many of the organizations that were so effective during the pandemic are underfunded and unable to address the other disparities facing Boston residents. Investing in organizations through the CHEE Fund is one of the many ways that we can foster community engagement and empowerment.” 

Health inequities are a persistent issue in Boston among communities with higher concentrations of Black, Latinx, immigrant, other historically marginalized groups. BPHC’s latest Health of Boston (HoB) report noted the many ways that social determinants of health, which include quality of housing, education, employment, environmental health, health care, public safety, food access, income, and health and social services, affect the health outcomes of residents.   

The most concerning finding of the HoB report was that a Roxbury census tract has the lowest life expectancy in Boston (68.8 years), 23-years less than a Back Bay census tract, which had the highest life expectancy (91.6). At the neighborhood-level, Mattapan has the shortest life expectancy (77.3 years), and Back Bay has the longest life expectancy (82.8 years). From 2017 to 2021, Black residents in Boston experienced the greatest increase in the rate of premature mortality (37.3%), and in 2021, the premature mortality rate was more than twice as high in Dorchester (293.9) and Roxbury (282.9). These neighborhoods have higher concentrations of Black and Latinx residents and lower median income, than in Back Bay, Downtown, and Beacon Hill (140.3).         

The report also highlights persistent health inequities in chronic disease outcomes by race and ethnicity. In 2021, the overall cancer mortality rate was highest among Black men (218.9) and the breast cancer mortality rate was highest among Black women (24.2). Similarly, the reports also found heart disease mortality was 37% higher for Black residents (158.5) as compared to white residents (115.6) in 2021. Further, the diabetes mortality rate for Black residents (50.9) and Latinx residents (28.6) were 3.1 and 1.8 times higher than the rate for White residents (16.1). 

“The grants made available through CHEE are a critical resource for helping us build a city that is truly equitable for all families,” said

Mayor Wu. “Helping people stay connected to care and addressing social determinants of health are essential for achieving this goal.” 

The CHEE Fund will award funding to five CBOs to address the imbalances of access, resources and opportunities in economic, social, and other obstacles to health and health care in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston, Hyde

 Park, and Roslindale. BPHC will prioritize funding for organizations that propose collaborative initiatives that foster community partnerships and are working with community health centers to connect residents to health care and healthcare resources.  

For more information about the CHEE fund and to apply for the RFP, please visit

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