The late Raheem Baraka of the Baraka Community Wellness Center received the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s Lemuel Shattuck Award for significant contributions to the betterment of public health practice across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at their 17th Annual Spring Awards Breakfast on June 7.
Baraka was a visionary and influential leader who has made significant and long-lasting contributions to the field of public health and Boston at-large. He was the Executive Director and founder of Barak Community Wellness Center, a nonprofit dedicated to using its resources to foster wellness and co-design solutions to improve community health, particularly among low income communities of color. He was nominated by Nineequa Blanding of the Boston Foundation and five other colleagues who had worked with him and shared his commitment to health equity.
Blanding presented the award. The Boston Foundation was a supporter of Baraka Community Wellness and its commitment to addressing chronic disease in underserved communities of Boston. Blanding led the effort to nominate Baraka along with colleagues from The Boston Foundation, the American Heart Association, the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, the Center for Community Health, Education, Research and Service, and others.
“Raheem’s work addressed the root causes of health inequities and his efforts have demonstrated the power of community-centered approaches,” said Blanding via press release.
Raheem’s wife Ysabel Alcantara Baraka and David Trietsch, Baraka Community Wellness Board Chair, accepted the award.
About Raheem Baraka
Raheem Baraka was the Founder and Executive Director of the Baraka Community Wellness Center in Roxbury. He was a seasoned wellness professional with an extensive background within healthcare, exercise science, behavioral coaching, and health advocacy. Prior to founding BCW, he served as the Director of Fitness for the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Community Health Centers and was primarily responsible for developing and implementing health promotion and intervention programs for the hospital, as well as direct to community engagements. These programs ranged from employee wellness initiatives to community wide holistic behavioral programming, and throughout his tenure he trained clinicians and providers on exercise adherence, behavioral modification, health coaching, and the techniques on how to effectively deliver and implement these non-clinical prevention approaches to patients specific to their individual need through tailored wellness models.
A native of Boston, he held a deep-rooted passion for community and creating opportunities for individuals to live their healthiest life. Those who had the privilege of knowing Baraka or hearing him share his personal story at events around the city, can attest to knowing his passion was in part driven by his own personal health challenges that he faced in his life.
Baraka was actively involved in population health efforts and served as the chairperson of The American Heart Association’s New England Healthy Equity Consortium, was a delegate for Food Solutions New England, a Healthy Boston Ambassador for a joint project with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), and had an appointment on board of directors of the global NGO, Health Care Without Harm. Additionally, he has been recognized for his work and dedication to community health and prevention initiatives by being an awardee of a 2010 and 2015 Partners in Excellence Award (Partners Healthcare), A Citation of Recognition from the Massachusetts House of Representatives Liz Malia, and a 2016 Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH) Community Leadership Award.