Over 100 researchers, clinicians, policymakers, immigrant leaders, and advocates gathered in Cambridge and online for “Power in Listening,” a celebration of the first year of the Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research(LZC), a center at the Institute for Community Health (ICH). LCZ’s mission is to partner with immigrant communities, advocates, policymakers and social and health systems on actionable research to improve immigrant health and well-being. It launched in February 2022 in honor of the late Dr. Leah Zallman, a highly respected medical doctor and researcher who died tragically and suddenly in 2021.
Today’s event engaged immigrant artists Leslie Condon, Mimi Wankene and Sanika Phawde, demonstrating the vital role that arts and culture play in immigrant health. The Center contracted with five different immigrant-owned catering businesses to provide food from China, India, Peru, Mexico and Italy. María Rosario González Albuixech, director of communications and immigrant health at Health Care For All, emceed, saying: “Traditional research thinks about access to medical care, which is very important, but when you talk about immigrant health with our communities, we think about holistic well-being, including transportation, housing, emotional well-being, and cultural connectedness. That’s the difference about the Leah Zallman Center – they are bringing community back into research.”
Marcony Almeida-Barros, deputy chief of staff for access and engagement for Governor Maura Healey, spoke to everyone about his path as an immigrant to where he is today and said, “We’ve seen an improvement in immigrant healthcare access, but we have a long way to go. Health disparities during COVID reminded us of that. WE have lots of research and work to do to inform action, not only in government, but with the private sector, non-profits, and community members.”
Attendees were guided by expert roundtable hosts through a participatory event-wide dialogue on topics, such as language access in healthcare, mental health, food justice, and policy priorities. LZC will take the results of these conversations and use them to inform their research going forward.
LZC Director Dr. Jessica Santos highlighted a recent report that the Center co-produced with the Boston Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement, Weaving Well-being, as an example of the type of community-engaged research they do, which centers the perspectives and work of immigrant leaders and communities. She said, “I’m thrilled with today’s turnout and the deep, cross-sector dialogues that took place. Our research reinforces the fact that social and structural factors such housing, jobs, power dynamics, and narratives are powerful determinants of health and well-being. We need evidence-based policies that incorporate global knowledge and advance equity. Advancing immigrant health takes all of us.”
LZC is based in Malden, Mass., at ICH, a nonprofit consulting organization cofounded by community health system Cambridge Health Alliance. Follow LZC at immigranthealth.org or contact LZC@icommunityhealth.org.