2023-01-30

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Cape Cod human rights group awards for health care access, equity – Cape Cod Times

During this year’s annual “International Human Rights Day” awards celebration, the Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission will highlight equity and access to healthcare, said Leslie Dominguez-Santos.
“We are looking at the broad picture of health care, and all the aspects that come into play like housing, healthy foods, and transportation,” said Dominguez-Santos, human rights coordinator of the Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission. “All of that comes into play when we talk about healthcare — especially for the most vulnerable residents on Cape Cod.”
The awards celebration will be held virtually from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 14, and will include a roundtable discussion, multiple awards ceremonies and remarks from Dominguez-Santos; Jeanne Morrison, a member of the Commission; U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass.; state Rep. Kip Diggs, D-Barnstable, and state Rep. David Vieira, R-Falmouth.
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Attendees must register to receive a link to programming. Cape Media Center will also showcase the event on Channel 98.
The ceremony will coincide with “Human Rights Day,” said Morrison, which is observed annually on Dec. 10 in remembrance of the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris in 1948.
“Human Rights Day” inspires people worldwide to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all forms, Morrison said. It’s a day to celebrate the achievements of those who have fought for and protected human rights. It’s also a day, she said, to reflect on the future and identify the work that still needs to be done.
It’s in that spirit, said Morrison, that the commission chose to focus on health care as a human right for this year’s human rights award celebration.
“Folks may not think of health care as a human rights issue, but in today’s world, everyone deserves to have access to good quality and affordable health care,” she said.
While the annual event usually hosts one keynote speaker, Dominguez-Santos said a roundtable discussion will be held instead.
“It seemed like a great opportunity to allow different health experts, that had different points of view, to build off of one another and talk about how they serve the Cape Cod community,” said Dominguez-Santos. “They all are inspiring in what they do.”
The discussion will feature three participants including Dr. Kumara Sidhartha, a physician whose focus is preventive medicine and nutrition, who will talk about access for Medicare and Medicaid patients; George “Leo” Blandford, director of Community Based Care at Outer Cape Health Services, who will talk about social determinants that can impact inequities of health care on the Cape; and Cecilia “Ceci” Phelan-Stiles, an interpreter, who will speak on how language connects to equity and access to health care.
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Dr. Brian O’Mally, an internal medicine physician in Provincetown and author, will moderate the roundtable discussion.
“All four speakers have great stories to tell about things that are working really well on Cape Cod,” said Dominguez-Santos. “They will also identify challenges in delivering quality health care to everybody. They share unique perspectives and we are eager to hear what they have to say.”
Each year the Commission also presents human rights awards to members of the community. Matthew Levesque, a Barnstable town councilor, will receive the Rosenthal Community Champion award; and Barbara Burgo, co-founder of the Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum & Cultural Center will receive the Cornerstone award.
Former Human Rights Coordinator the late Susan Quinones will also be honored, and her family will receive the Tim McCarthy Award. Quinones died in April after a battle with cancer.
Unsung health access and equity heroes and heroines will also be honored during the event.
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Eleven recipients include Terry Alves-Hunter, a mental health care advocate for racial, ethnic and linguistic minority communities; Blandford, a clinical social worker and volunteer; Melanie Braverman and Molly Purdue of the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center of Cape Cod; Debra Dagwan, a former Barnstable Town Councilor and civil rights and LGBTQ plus advocate; Joanne Geake, a Sandwich public health nurse, who addresses community mental health needs and addiction; Paul Hebert, co-founder of Champ House (now Champ Homes), which provides transitional housing for adults in need; Ron Hoffman, founder of Compassionate Care ALS; Michael Mecenas, founder and director of Health Ministry, Inc., an organization that provides services for migrants and low-income families; Ayanna Parent, founder of B Free Wellness in Hyannis; and Daniel Rodrigues, director of substance use disorder services at Duffy Health Center.
“Our unsung heroes are doing their own part across the Cape community to ensure people have things to keep them healthy, things to help them improve their health condition,” said Morrison.
Dominguez-Santos agreed and said the unsung heroes are positively affecting the many facets of health care.
“I love that we are looking at a broad picture of what human rights work looks like in terms of health care,” she said. “From housing to healthy foods to transportation — all of these aspects come into play when we talk about health. All of these unsung heroes are doing the work across all 15 towns on Cape.”
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For Morrison, the state of health care affects everybody — and we must all work together to ensure access and equity within our local and overall healthcare systems.
“If you can’t or don’t have access to treatment for illnesses, then your quality of life can be very poor. No one should suffer like that. We should all have what we need,” she said. “It’s a fundamental human right.”
Contact Rachael Devaney at rdevaney@capecodonline.com.
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