Black Iowa health coach and podcaster to host national conference 'My City My Health' to improve racial equity in health care

National health conference held in Des Moines in November will convene health experts and community leaders to seek better ways to assist underserved patients.

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A popular Black podcast host and health coach based in Iowa is the force behind a national health conference coming to Des Moines in November, "My City My Health: Health is a Community Effort," that will convene health care professionals and community leaders for a discussion about health equity.

“Not only is this conference intended for health professionals,” said Corey Dion Lewis, conference creator and the founder of “The Healthy Project” podcast. “But it's also meant for the people that we're serving. There is no point of having a conversation about patients’ health if the people that we're serving aren't in the room.”

Corey Dion Lewis, founder of the "My City My Health" conference and "The Healthy Project" podcast. Photo courtesy of Lewis.

The conference will be held from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 11 at Mainframe Studios in Des Moines. Tickets are on sale now. In-person tickets are $40. The cost for virtual attendees is $25. Lewis is expecting 250 people during the event, but virtually the attendance is “The sky’s the limit,” he said. The conference combines health care and community leadership with culture and entertainment.

Lewis, a clinical health coach at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, said it’s time for health professionals and community members to talk about health, health equity and health equality — and improving care for underserved populations.

“This is something we talk about and hear about, but we don’t really see or have discussions about solutions,” he said. “You just can’t Google a solution to some of these things we’re talking about.”

The conference will feature a slate of speakers, including Dr. Patrick Ford — a physical therapist and president and cofounder of Project Onyx, a nonprofit focused on eliminating the barriers that Black and Brown youth face in their pursuit of health, fitness, and wellness.

“This conference can be a massive turning point for the story of health disparities for Des Moines," said Ford, a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and racial inequity expert. "I feel honored to be a part of an incredible variety of health professionals who embrace their role of being true advocates for oppressed and excluded communities."

Dr. Patrick Ford, a physical therapist and president and cofounder of Project Onyx, will speak at the "My City My Health" conference in November. Photo courtesy of Ford.

Ford explained: "This conference represents the peak of the wave that started following the murder of George Floyd. I truly believe this wave of anti-racism and anti-oppression will carry us all into a future of equity and justice in health care."

"My City My Health: Health is a Community Effort"

City of Des Moines. Photo by Black Iowa News.

The hybrid virtual and in-person conference is centered on improving the health and well-being of underserved minorities in the poorest communities, said Lewis.

“It’s about the people,” he said. “It’s about the experience.”

The successful podcast features more than 120 episodes and goes in-depth on the issues with nationally-known guests.

“I see myself as not only "The Healthy Project" podcast, but "The Healthy Project" — the health education company,” he said. “And I want to make it a place where people can go to learn.”

Origins of "My City My Health"

During the coronavirus pandemic, one of Lewis’ patients was prediabetic, overweight, and making progress toward her health goals, but then it stalled, he said.

“It came out in one of our sessions that she was really stressed out because her husband had lost his job during the pandemic, and she didn’t know how she was going to make rent for the month,” he said.

Lewis accessed Findhelp for his patient, which allows users to search by their zip code for community resources, including food and housing.

“I found a community organization here that helps with rent relief,” he said. “She was able to reach out to them and that took a lot of stress off her shoulders.”

That community piece is key, he said, explaining that community services play an important role in optimal health care.

“I couldn’t do a lot of the work I do if it wasn’t for some of the services within the community,” Lewis said. “They kind of go hand in hand in helping improve health outcomes for our patients.”

That’s when the idea for the conference began to crystallize.

Ultimately, Lewis wants to help educate patients, so they trust their health care providers and they feel better about getting health care services and understanding what the services are.

“I feel like that’s my role,” he said. “I can at least bring it to the table and talk about the problems.”

Some of the problems stem from how the conversations are framed. A lot of the conversations in the Midwest, specifically in Iowa, tend to be centered on rural health, he said.

“I understand there are Black and Brown people who live in rural areas, but when I hear rural, I don’t think about the Black and Brown people in those areas. And that’s unfortunate. Just because that’s the majority of our population, we cannot forget about the brothers and sisters in the city who also need help, who also are here.”

Lewis said he’s excited for a community panel during the conference. A panel of health professionals will be answering questions from community members: “from the people that we’re serving.”

The Iowa State Capitol. Photo by Black Iowa News.

Speakers:

  • Chayla Morris, ambulatory care clinical pharmacy coordinator
  • Dr. Patrick Ford, DPT president, president and CEO of Project Onyx, DEI and Racial Inequity Expert
  • Renee Hardman, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, West Des Moines city councilwoman
  • Zakiya Jenkins, Grace Fitness
  • Anuj Bhargava, founder and CEO of Iowa Diabetes Research

Community Panel:

  • Jacqueline Easley McGhee, Iowa/Nebraska NAACP health chair
  • Benjamin LeFever, founder and CEO of Certinell Telehealth
  • Izaah Knox, CEO of Urban Dreams
  • Dr. Yogesh Shah, chief medical officer, Broadlawns Medical Center
  • Jonathan Whitfield, reverend, Corinthian Baptist Church

The coronavirus pandemic exposed a fractured health care system and the startling inequities experienced by Blacks, Indigenous and people of color.

“There are some questions that need to be answered,” Lewis said.

Ultimately, Lewis is hopeful the conference can usher improvements in Des Moines and elsewhere. He plans to replicate the conference in cities across the country.

“This is the start of something I hope that will build more trust in those people who are there watching in person and those who are watching virtually,” he said.

The conference will also feature exhibitors, poetry, a keynote address about racism in health care and end with a networking happy hour. He expects the attendees from around the country will gain insights they can put to use.

“You can get value from what we’re doing here in Des Moines, and hopefully utilize that and implement that wherever you live.”

Read more about Corey Dion Lewis and "The Healthy Project" podcast:

Dana James, founder of Black Iowa News, will be a moderator during the conference's community panel.

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