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Q&A: Yanique Redwood, president and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation

Oct 23, 2017

Yanique Redwood is the president and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit that works toward achieving health equity in the region by addressing the social determinants of health. Redwood spoke with Interact for Health about her experience with the foundation and its work to help actualize racial equity efforts.

Interact for Health: Can you tell me more about the Consumer Health Foundation and its goals?

Yanique Redwood: We started off working on health care access. But several years in, we heard from communities that yes, health care is important -- and there are a ton of other things that are important for health, such as transportation, the experience of racism, and housing. That's when the foundation really broadened its scope to include the social determinants of health and created a health justice portfolio. To address those issues, we provide grants, but also go beyond grant-making to engage in philanthropic partnerships, strategic communication and mission-consistent investing toward the goal of racial equity and racial justice for communities of color.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned from your work with the Consumer Health Foundation?

Redwood: We have spent a lot of time developing tools and processes that can help our grantee partners and the broader community operationalize equity. For example, racial equity work must be grounded in history. When it comes to, for instance, the relationship between redlining and the practice of racism and how it impacts health, people often ask, "If we're talking about health, why are we talking about something so far in our past? What does that have to do with health?" And through the foundation and its tools and approaches we can connect those dots. We can explain that practices like redlining have created communities that are segregated, have fewer amenities, lower tax bases. All of that has real quality of life impacts as well as direct health impacts because of the stress of living in those environments.

Interact for Health: Can you share a brief example that illustrates the effects of the foundation in the community?

Redwood: One of our partners was focusing their efforts on increasing the number of housing vouchers in Washington, D.C., but after using the racial equity impact assessment tool, they realized that the vouchers will not be as effective if they don't account for the history of racial discrimination in housing. They have now expanded their work to include advocacy around landlord bias training. That's a new body of work for them that is accounting for how racism operates, which will make their initial policy effort to increase vouchers more effective.

Interact for Health: What accomplishments of the foundation are you most proud of?

Redwood: I'm really proud of our board. I feel really grateful because I have a board that understands the impact of racism and how it impacts health. When I'm out in meetings, I hear other leaders talking about wanting to do work but they can't because they don't have board support.

Interact for Health: What about your work is most gratifying or most fulfilling?

Redwood: I get to work with this small but mighty group of people who can see an opportunity, and in a very short period of time, we can make it happen. The bureaucracy is not there; the alignment is there. I always thought you had to be a really large foundation for people to pay attention, and that's not true at all.

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