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Amerihealth, Coca-Cola Partner to Fight Health Disparities in D.C.

Barrington M. Salmon | 9/25/2013, 3 p.m.
Maria Pajil Battle, president of the AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership, Curtis Etherly, director of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola Refreshments, and Karen Dale, executive director of AmeriHealth District of Columbia display the $25,000 donation from the Coca-Cola Foundation, which will go towards funding the health ministries program in D.C. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

People who adopt a healthy lifestyle live longer, enjoy a better quality of life and ultimately save the health care system hundreds of millions of dollars.

To that end, AmeriHealth Caritas and the Coca-Cola Company have established a new partnership that will allow AmeriHealth to reach residents across the Anacostia River who too often exhibit the widest range and greatest number of health disparities.

Maria Pajil Battle, president of the AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership, said the new faith-based program will provide customers and the wider community with an array of tools to improve their mental, physical and emotional health.

“African American women in the District of Columbia experience some of the most significant health disparity gaps in the country,” Battle said. “The disparities include issues related to poverty, education and the environment, and they all have an effect on the health of this community. We are grateful for the generous support from The Coca-Cola Company Foundation to help us reduce disparities and build healthier communities in the District,”

AmeriHealth serves low-income and chronically ill populations, offers Medicaid managed care products and other health care solutions to underserved communities. It took over operations from the Chartered Health Plan on May 1.

“We have people with diabetes, asthma and multiple disparities who are taught how to change their lifestyles,” said Battle during a handing over ceremony of a $25,000 check from the Coca-Cola Foundation. “We have full health screenings, good food, quality food and a celebrity chef for our 21-day program.”

She said health programs and boot camps have so far taken place in New Orleans, La., Bishopville, S.C., and Philadelphia. On Saturday, September 14, the first D.C. event at Temple of Praise Church featured free health screenings and other activities, panel discussions and workshops, cooking demonstrations and yoga instruction. The second program – a “21-Day Journey to Better Health” begins in November. 

“You can’t change someone’s life in a day,” said Battle. “It takes a while to make changes.”

Curtis Etherly, director of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola Refreshments, applauded the joint venture.

“This is a partnership built on family, built on faith,” said Etherly, who described himself as “a son of Ward 6 and a proud graduate of The Ballou Senior High School. “… This is helping the community to get active, get out, remain fit and enjoy life. We want people to get out and exercise, enjoy low-cost or no cost activities. To be active is the way we want them to be.”

“This is a golden partnership, where government, the private sector and non-profits come together to help solve challenges of the day. When Maria approached us in Philly, it was a no-brainer. In my mind I was hopeful that it would be happening in Washington, D.C. We’re bringing this important partnership where members are. What this model helps us do is be proactive. The work can take place anywhere in the community.”

AmeriHealth Executive Director Karen Dale agreed.

“I hope you share our enthusiasm,” she told the audience assembled in a meeting space at The ARC in Southeast. “This couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re deeply rooted in the community, working closely with all our partners and removing barriers for providers.”

“We have to remember that our clients live complex lives, life happens. It’s important to remember that we’re not dealing with people who intentionally don’t make good health choices. They need reminders, support groups and peers. Our health is just so important which is why churches play such an emphatic role … I’m happy that Coke has chosen to be a partner.”

With partnerships being forged with Mathews Memorial Baptist Church, Temple of Praise and other ministries, Dale said, residents of target communities will benefit immensely.

“In health and in partnerships, we can make huge differences. We want to be as inclusive as possible and [involved in] the partnerships we need for the success of our programs,” she said.