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Ensuring Equity Through Community Health

Collective impact organization Healthy BR is focused on creating a healthier life for Baton Rouge's residents. The coronavirus pandemic has only made that work more vital. 

May 6, 2020

Sunrise in Louisiana

As a region, South Louisiana has learned time and time again that building a community is one of the most critical elements of society. We’ve braved storms and we’ve braved floods, but never before have we encountered something like the current health pandemic. Even still, our sense of community is revealing how powerful we are together and also how important it is to find leaders who make that possible.

Unlike many cities, Baton Rouge does not have a traditional health department to manage public health, but in its place is something far more innovative. For ten years, Healthy BR has been a collective impact oganization bringing the area’s five hospitals together for the purpose of creating a healthier life for Baton Rouge residents. However, when our community is faced with a crisis, its role is far more critical. 

Jared Hymowitz (South Louisiana '12) leads as Healthy BR’s director, a role he felt drawn to after seven years as a teacher at Jackson Elementary School. It was between his experiences as a Teach For America and City Year corps member that he was able to see up close the many factors that impact a child’s ability to achieve in the classroom. Factors that classroom teachers can only address through the kind of collaboration and leadership that helps Healthy BR ready to support Baton Rouge in such a nontraditional way. 

In the week before Baton Rouge’s first COVID-19 case, meetings with healthcare leaders from across the Baton Rouge area positioned Healthy BR as the lead in coordinating the city’s response. Moving quickly and without local or national resources, they set up the city’s first testing site, providing more than 1,500 tests to Baton Rouge residents. At the same time, they assessed hospital capacity and developed strategies to meet the virus head-on. 

With many challenges along the way, Jared’s leadership illustrates the work of Teach For America leaders.