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Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Healthcare Equality Advocates “Light the Night” For Reform, Demand Congressional Action On Disparities

Activists Target Congress With Thousands of Postcards, Telephone Calls.

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Washington, June 24, 2009 | comments

Hundreds of healthcare workers, doctors, nurses and other frontline caregivers, joined activists, organizers, healthcare equality advocates and ordinary Americans to demand that Congressional reform efforts address systemic inequality in the American healthcare system. They were joined by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), and Congressman John Conyers, champions of healthcare equality in Congress.

“The consequences of more delay are grave.  Injustice in the healthcare system is literally killing communities, and the time for Congressional action is now,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Task Force.  “Congress needs to hear from voices in the equality movement as we work to shape reform.”

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard said to the audience: “I stand with you in our shared commitment to achieve a nation free of health disparities, with quality health outcomes for all, regardless of ethnic, racial or cultural background.  For we all know that the only way to improve the health of ALL Americans is to enhance the health of EVERY American.”  (Click here to read the full text of the congresswoman’s remarks.)

“Lighting the Night, Equality ‘09” hosted by the Healthcare Equality Project sent a loud and clear message to Congress with thousands of calls and hand-written notes: Reform must pass this year, but it must be equal, just, and make concrete investments in eliminating life-threatening disparities.

The event provided a forum for participants to demand healthcare equality. Event-goers participated in a moving “Speak-out,” where they verbally shared their personal difficulties overcoming obstacles in an unequal system. Participants also shared individual experiences and stories on thousands of postcards to be hand-delivered to members of Congress by the Healthcare Equality Project. Additionally, they were given the number 1-800-577-1635 to distribute in their communities that will connect callers to their member of Congress so that they can personally deliver an equality message and a call for change.

The evening culminated with a candlelight vigil to “Light the Night,” in remembrance of those who have suffered or died due to disparities in the healthcare system, and a rallying call to action for the event-goers to demand action from the Congress. The activist work continues tomorrow as participants head to Capitol Hill to talk one-on-one with members of Congress from both parties about the urgent need for equitable reform.

“Our leaders in Congress must pass healthcare reform that truly works for everyone by making concrete investments in reducing life-threatening healthcare disparities, investing in underserved communities and the healthcare workforce, and expanding access to quality care,” said Dennis Rivera, Chair of SEIU Healthcare. “Reducing inequality is in everyone’s interest. A more equal system that's grounded in prevention will also mean a less costly, higher quality system."

Event organizers and participants represent a unique coalition of major equality and social justice advocacy groups, labor unions, community organizations, civil rights and women’s groups, healthcare workers and activists. Participants heard from Eleanor Hinton-Hoytt of the National Black Women’s Health Imperative about the obstacles women – particularly women of color – face when seeking care. Eun Sook Lee, of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium talked about the barriers Asian Americans must overcome when seeking care. “Too often, and for too many, language is an insurmountable wall to life saving treatment. Too frequently, a lack of cultural competence has led to poor outcomes for patients from communities of color. These are fixable problems, but healthcare reform must make real commitments to address these issues,” said Eun Sook Lee.

Echo events will be happening in select cities, including “The Domino Effect of Healthcare Inequality” event in Miami, Florida on the same night.

Participating coalition partners include SEIU, Gamaliel, LULAC, ACORN, Families USA, La Clínica del Pueblo, Center for Community Change, Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) - AFL-CIO, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), URU the Right to Be, Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Puerto Rican Coalition, Hispanic Federation, and Latinos for National Health Insurance,  Asian American Justice Center, Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance - AFL-CIO (APALA),  Colorado Progressive Action  Hispanic Federation (HF)  Idaho Community Action Network , Latino Federation , Montanans for Healthcare, National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Oregon Action (OA)  Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)  Take Action Minnesota , The Task Force, South Dakotans for Healthcare Solutions and Washington Community Action Network (WCAN).


With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers—not just corporations and CEOs—benefit from today's global economy.

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Tags: Health