Avery Institute for Social Change

Linked with Byllye Avery – USA, with An Open Letter to my Sisters,
with The Health Care Crisis … , and with the National Black Women’s Health Imperative.

The Avery Institute for Social Change is a national, non-profit organization based in Harlem, N.Y., that is committed to quality health care for all. The organization takes a practical, visionary approach to health care reform, linking the grassroots, academic and policy communities, giving voice to those who experience the impact of health disparities, particularly in communities of color. Through public education, technical assistance and leadership development, The Avery Institute for Social Change is building a new knowledge base and a network of leader-activists. The organization seeks community-driven solutions for ending health disparities while stimulating a grassroots movement for national health care reform.


Our goal is to inspire a grassroots movement to work for health care reform using the “Health Care as a Human Right” platform.

Since 2002, The Avery Institute has brought together groups of health activists, strategists, community advocates and scholars for constructive dialogue on health disparities and health care reform issues. These public education forums include:

African American Women’s Health Activism: Shifting Paradigms, Building Alliances, Forging Change. In 2002, Avery held the first gathering of the Avery Fellows – community and scholar activists with public policy and foundation officials in a summer seminar. This examination of the medical history of African Americans, the problem of racism, urban “root shock,” and the importance of story telling in teaching health information helped to better understand the disparities revealed by the continuing gaps in health treatment, services and current morbidity and mortality statistics.

Health Care as a Human Right and its Relevance to Health Care Reform. In 2003, the Avery Summer Institute gathered domestic and international health and human rights activists together to examine the U.S. position on the implementation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At our first town meeting, we brought voices of the community into the discussion with nationally-recognized speakers, such as: Mike Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts; Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. surgeon general; Dr. Alan Rosenfeld, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University; and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, medical vice president for Johnson & Johnson.

Health Care Is a Human Right: A Call for Action. In December 2004, The Institute, in collaboration with Harlem Hospital, convened its second town meeting. On a cold, snowy day, more than 250 New York residents came together  to begin the discussion about health care needs of under-represented populations, how people of Harlem can participate in making their community healthy, health disparities and their causes and the need for universal health care. The public forum included an appeal to the citizens of Harlem and of greater New York City to mobilize health care consumers to focus on their health, and to join the mounting movement for health care reform.

The Gainesville, Fla., Hear Us Now! town meeting in March 2005 provided the Avery Institute with the opportunity to solidify its community-organizing model. The community response of more than 350 persons was exceptional due to the 40-plus organizations co-sponsoring the town meeting, including the Black Nurses Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and many civic groups such as the League of Women Voters. The town meeting was shaped to encourage the sponsoring organizations to make health care reform a part of their program focus. The result of this meeting has been the formation of a broad-based coalition with local government support that has a clearly defined and ambitious agenda: saving a local hospital that serves primarily low-income people and communities of color; educating seniors and the public about dual eligibility; and ensuring access to reproductive health.

Florida Statewide Women’s Health Meeting. It was co-convened with Columbia’s Women’s Health and Human Rights Initiative in December 2005 in Orlando, Fla. More than 40 participants revisited the discussion about health statistics, chronic diseases and reproductive health for women of all ethnic representation. The group decided to work on maintaining adequate funding for Medicaid. This group has made a commitment to upgrading health care for women in Florida. (full text).

Comments are closed.