The Arc of Pennsylvania Wins Public Health System Award

The Arc of Pennsylvania, an advocacy organization promoting the human rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was awarded with the inaugural “Strengthening the Public Health System Award” from the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI). The organization won the award for its campaign to raise awareness of health disparities related to COVID-19 in the disability community.

“It’s an honor to receive this award, and this recognition is a testament to the hard work that the project team put into producing this campaign,” said Sherri Landis, Executive Director of The Arc of Pennsylvania. “We feel empowered by this award to continue to raise awareness of health disparities faced by the I/DD and disability communities so that we can work with legislators, policymakers and other stakeholders to address them.”

The Arc of Pennsylvania developed two reports in 2022 and 2023, respectively: the first report identified COVID-19 health care barriers among people with disabilities, their families and was followed up by recommendations on addressing said barriers and disparities. The initiative was a multi-year effort funded with a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the CDC’s National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved.

Participants included people with lived experience of a disability, caretakers, and family members of those with a disability, and professionals in support fields. The participants also represented diverse types of disabilities, including physical, intellectual, developmental, and behavioral, as well as emotional, sensory impairment, and complex medical disabilities.

Hundreds of individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and rural populations participated in the study through regional and local interviews, surveys, meetings, and listening tours that served as focus groups over the last year to identify the core solutions and recommendations.

The “Strengthening the Public Health System Award” was introduced by NNPHI this year. It is “designed to honor a project team that has implemented a successful initiative to increase the capacity of state, tribal, local and territorial health departments and their partners to advance positive health outcomes.”