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ACS supports vital health equity work in communities of color

Memphis Collaboration for Equitable Health garners 150 commitments from local leaders.​

In 2022 ACS announced we were joining the Collaboration for Equitable Health to focus on the leading causes of death in communities of color – heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. 

In March, Chief Diversity Officer Tawana Thomas Johnson, and other members of our ACS team attended the Memphis Collaboration for Equitable Health (Memphis CFEH) with a goal to identify, recruit, engage, and convene a cross-section of Memphis and Shelby County leaders. 

The event provided a call to action for local leaders to commit resources and funding that will propel health equity efforts in the Memphis community. These leaders are the boots on the ground in the daily fight for equitable health in communities of color, and their commitment is critical to improving outcomes for the people of Memphis. 

Why Memphis?

During the meeting, Dr. Michelle Taylor, Shelby County Division Director for Health Services, shared some staggering health data that clearly indicates why this initiative selected Memphis as a community in need of support:

  • 68% of the population in Memphis identifies as Black, which is almost five times the national average.
  • Black people in Shelby County have the highest death rate from cancer, a rate much higher than individuals of other racial backgrounds.
  • Cancer screening in Shelby County is lower than the national target of 80%.
  • Black people in Shelby County are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from diabetes.
  • Memphis residents are more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension compared to the national average.
  • Coronary heart disease rates in Memphis are notably higher compared to the national rate.
  • The ratio of Patients to Providers in Shelby County is 670:1.

What happened during the event?

The goal of the meeting was to gather 50-100 leaders from the Memphis and Shelby County community and garner their commitment to taking action around one of three pillars: 

  • Access – Increase equitable provision and utilization of evidence-based strategies to support prevention, early detection/diagnosis, and treatment of hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Activate – Amplify knowledge, remove barriers, and create pathways to reduce long-standing health disparities in hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Advocate – Collaborate and support communities to effectively advocate for equitable health by advancing their ability for sustained public policy advocacy.

We were proud to reach that goal with 85 leaders in attendance, who eagerly listened to health and business experts including: 

  • Dr. Keith Norman, Vice President of Government Relations & Chief Community Affairs Officer Baptist Memorial Health Care
  • Trevia Chatman, President, Bank of America Memphis 
  • Dr. Michelle Taylor, Director, Shelby County Division Director for Health Services
  • Tawana Thomas Johnson, Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, American Cancer Society 
  • Dr. Jamila Smith-Young, Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Endocrinology, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital & Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, University of Tennessee Health Science Center 
  • Greg Duckett, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer, Baptist Memorial Health Care & Board Chair, Memphis Chamber of Commerce

What happens next?

Event organizers collected an estimated 150 commitments from leaders to break the silence and help increase access, activation, and advocacy among peers, colleagues, friends, family, coworkers, and others in our communities. Representatives from ACS, as well as the other Collaboration for Equitable Health partners, will remain in contact with those leaders to provide them with the support and resources they need to follow through with their commitments and drive measurable outcomes for the Memphis community. 

“With the right information and resources to deliver prevention information, we believe that Memphis leaders are well positioned to support the community at-large in contributing to ending cancer as we know it, for everyone," Tawana said. "By engaging diverse organizations to increase awareness, build trust, promote timely screening, and share prevention information, we will help reduce health disparities in cancer and other chronic diseases through our shared commitment.”

More to come

The team will continue to update our team members on additional outcomes as this initiative progresses. Thank you, as always, for your continued support of our mission!


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