Interfaith Public Health Roundtable in NYC

On December 2, 2023, the Interfaith Public Health Network (IPHN) facilitated its first post-pandemic NYC Public Health Roundtable event. Community members and faith leaders gathered at the Bronx Opera House Hotel to discuss the intersection between community advocacy and public health solutions. Topics included the exploration of the history of public health successes and examples of public health initiatives led by faith communities, indoor air quality initiatives, food systems as a determinant of health and gun violence prevention initiatives. The discussion was facilitated by IPHN conveners Robert Pezzolesi and Kelly Moltzen with guest speakers including Trevor Summerfield of the American Lung Association and James Dobbins, the Community Initiatives Director of the NYC Health and Hospitals Violence Intervention Program (NYC H+H VIP).

During the talk, attendees from different faith communities, such as the Islamic faith and Christian faith, shared some of the successes and challenges they have had initiating public health initiatives within their religious communities. Successes included organizing community members to gather around social causes through charity drives, attending community health fairs and relaying relevant information back to community members, and developing cultural-specific campaigns/initiatives to bring awareness to issues such as food waste. Additionally, attendees highlighted the value of attending events such as the IPHN Roundtable as a means to stay updated about relevant public health updates and initiatives such as those shared by Summerfield and Dobbins.

Trevor Summerfield shared the most recent findings on the negative health impact of exposure to appliance emissions, such as that produced by gas stoves, and their contribution to indoor air pollution. He also shared about recent policy initiatives that local representatives are currently advocating for to create zero-emission standards through the use of electric stoves and other alternatives in homes. Kelly Moltzen shared about diet-related health disparity data in NYC, information about the nutrient content of safety of what’s in our food, and examples of opportunities to create more healthy and sustainable food systems. James Dobbins shared the impact of his work with the NYC H+H VIP through the Guns Down, Life Up initiative, which strives to reduce gun violence through community mediation and social support.

After each speaker, participants had an opportunity to reflect on what was presented, answering prompts about the root causes of health disparities and the role of our faith traditions in responding to the disparities. At the conclusion of the Roundtable event, attendees were encouraged to think through the intersections of the public health issues explored and ways in which they could organize members of their community around relevant public health initiatives. Attendees noted the importance of community dialogue as a foundational step in public health initiatives and concluded the day appreciative of the opportunity to connect with others regarding public health awareness.

Jeneé Grannum is a student at the CUNY School of Public Health, with an anticipated graduation date of June 2024. With a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies and Health & Nutrition, and a Grand Diplôme in Professional Culinary Arts, Jeneé aims to promote and inspire community health and wellness through a focus on health from a culturally affirming lens. With over 10 years of professional experience as a chef and culinary educator, Jeneé has sought and continues to seek to use food as a vehicle for joy, comfort, healing, community building and cultural preservation. In her current role as a Nutrition Project Coordinator,  Jeneé coordinates free, multilingual, nutrition and culinary education programming for farmers markets. As a public health professional, Jeneé’s goals include continuing to gain experience in policy work and contributing to the creation and implementation of legislative policy that promotes equitable food access and culturally relevant and competent nutrition education for all.