Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Ferry Good Health Project

REACH uses a community-led approach to help to reduce chronic illness among African American/Black residents in five underserved ZIP codes in Buffalo, New York.

Residents of Buffalo, New York, are uniquely impacted by numerous health disparities. The heart disease mortality rate in Buffalo is 214.2 compared with 189.9 and 184.6 for Erie County and New York State, respectively, and the stroke mortality rate is 42.8, compared to 37.7 for Erie County and 25.9 for the state.

Risk factors that can contribute to heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and being overweight or obese, are seen at elevated rates in this region, and only 58 percent of residents of Buffalo and the surrounding area report visiting their doctors routinely to have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, compared to 75 percent nationally. It is likely that many people in Buffalo are going undiagnosed with dangerous conditions, which speaks to the need for a renewed awareness of health and wellness in the city.

The initiative

CAI and our local partners leverage existing community resources and utilize a community-led approach to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions that address preventable risk factors which are driving chronic diseases among African Americans living and working along the Ferry Street Corridor in Buffalo. The project promotes wellness with strategies that advance tobacco-free living, improve nutrition and breastfeeding rates, and increase access to health and community programs.

CAI’s approach is grounded in a set of principles that guide our actions and ensure meaningful participation among residents. CAI engages the community through a racial equity lens to empower it members to lend their insights and expertise in the development, implementation, and evaluation of all activities.

The impact

The REACH project has helped develop an extensive community mobilization infrastructure in Buffalo and made progress on multiple health equity fronts. CAI helped establish a leadership group, a community action team, and the Ferry Street Community Wellness Champions.

In REACH’s focus areas (nutrition, breastfeeding, and tobacco), the program has increased the availability of fresh produce and incentivized the accessibility of benefit programs such as SNAP and WIC at local grocery stores, identified and engaged three Buffalo Baby Cafes to better understand gaps in service that exist for African American/Black mothers who initiate breastfeeding, and established a tobacco action group composed of community members who promote the adoption of smoke-free policy changes for local worksites and multi-unit housing along the Ferry Street Corridor.

Project funder and key partners

  • Funder: REACH is a national program administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Key partners: Calming Nature Doula Services, NeuWater and Associates, and African Heritage Co-Op

Leadership and contact

Ruthie Lloyd, REACH Project Director: reach.contact@caiglobal.org

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Community Engagement

Community mobilization activities and centering the voices of community members are at the heart of our work. We lead activities to build community awareness and the capacity of community members and stakeholders to work together to shape and implement a set of coordinated activities to reduce harmful effects of tobacco use, improve access to healthy and nutritious food options, and link families to the care and services they need to promote wellness. To do this we pursue the following strategies.

Authentic community engagement

We are partnering with African American Health Disparities Task Force’s membership and an expanded set of partners that include community members and organizations (CBOs, health providers, community members, private foundations and businesses, schools, restaurants, etc.), who leverage their experience, influence, and resources to address enduring disparities in chronic disease and promote health equity. For example, the partnership has identified several private businesses that are instrumental to this initiative, including: the Arab American Business Association, representing proprietors of Ferry Street corner stores, as well as Harmac Medical Products and Rich Products Corporation, two large employers whose headquarters bookend the Ferry Corridor.

Capacity building

We build a shared understanding of the use of population-based strategies to promote health and wellness among community members and partners, and build knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs required to innovate and implement evidence-based strategies to improve health outcomes.

Continuous use of data to inform decisions

We continuously use data and information to drive decisions, assess progress, and identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. We believe that everyone can play a role in evaluation, and we employ community-based participatory research methods and strategies to engage community residents as meaningful partners in shaping, conducting, and analyzing data. Information collected will be shared through leadership, resident, IG, and CAT meetings, and utilized to prioritize activities.

Leveraging assets and resourcing new initiatives

We have identified several Buffalo based programs that are well-positioned to be implemented along the Ferry Corridor, with adaptations for cultural relevance and Ferry corridor context. Community members identify gaps where new programs and initiatives can and will be resourced. This includes awarding annual mini-grants; to grassroots organizations or community entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to promote community wellness in each of the three focus areas.

Continuous communication

Community awareness efforts include a robust communications effort. We engage a local marketing and communications firm to undertake a communications campaign that promotes REACH goals and objectives with tailored messages and strategies for each of the three focus areas.

Download the REACH fact sheet (1.6 MB PDF) for a brief overview of our work.

A Walk of Healing: 2021 Igniting Hope Conference

Issues We Work On

On this page:


Our partners

Calming Nature Doula Services
Durham’s Maternal Stress-Free Zone

Helpful organizations and websites

Baby’s Sweet Beginnings (Lancaster, NY)
Black Women Do Breastfeed: Events and resources
Black Breastfeeding Week
Breastfeeding Playlist: Short videos from other organizations to support and educate pregnant and parenting people in Buffalo, NY.
Buffalo’s Breastfeeding Sisters: A breastfeeding support group for African American women
Catholic Health Nurse-family Program (Erie and Niagra County)
Center for Breastfeeding: Resources including lactation counselor training courses
The Care Connection: Online Breastfeeding classes and services
Western New York Orofacial and Breasfeeding Support Center (Buffalo, NY)


Tip sheet for breastfeeding mothers (1 MB PDF)
Quick facts about maternal mental health (270 KB PDF)

COVID and flu vaccines

Community Vaccine Champion Glendora Johnson Cooper discusses the impact that COVID-19 has had on her community and why she became a champion. This video was created in partnership with CVC-Glendora, Jericho Road Health Services, and local videographer Alexander Harold.

Become a Community Vaccine Champion!

Community Vaccine Champions are trained to facilitate authentic conversations about receiving COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. At these regularly scheduled trainings, you’ll learn best practices about how to have informal and ongoing conversations with loved ones about the importance of being vaccinated.

Interested in becoming a champion? Please contact us: reach.contact@caiglobal.org.

Reach Talk video series: Testimonials about getting vaccinated

Davonte (Ticket) Gaines, a Division 1 basketball athlete from Buffalo, shares his experience with COVID-19 and why he received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Watch the REACH Talk series of COVID videos on our YouTube channel.


Why is getting vaccinated important?

Getting a flu and COVID-19 shot lowers your chances of getting a severe case and going to the hospital and helps to protect and lower the risk for those around you. COVID-19 shots are an important tool to help stop the pandemic.

I felt sick after I got my shot. What does that mean?

When you get either your flu or COVID-19 shot, you might have muscle aches, chills or fever-like symptoms for a day or two. That’s completely normal, it means that the body is building protection against the viruses that cause the flu and COVID-19.

Do I really need the flu shot every year?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Flu viruses change each year and your ability to fight it off decreases.
A yearly flu shot for anyone 6 months and older is important to protect against the flu.

This season, a flu shot may lessen your chances of being hospitalized with COVID if you get it. It also helps reduce the burden on our hospitals and saves resources for COVID-19 patients who need this type of care.

What else can I do to protect myself?

Wear a mask, wash your hands often, and practice good hygiene by cleaning surfaces and objects in your home and elsewhere. If you are sick, stay home and use your inner elbow to cover up your sneeze.

Learn more about COVID-19 and the flu


Where you live can shape your health. Our mission to reduce chronic disease among African Americans along Buffalo’s Ferry Corridor includes increased access to nutritious food options.

In the past few years, we’ve partnered with organizations in Buffalo and assisted them with getting corner store owners buy in, assisted with creating signage and recipe cards, and overall awareness, education, and increased food access. In addition, we co-sponsored a “Fresh meal” initiative cross six community stores, by purchasing meals for people to sample. Thereafter, making the meals available and eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

What Is Diabetes? Video series

Watch all of the diabetes education videos on our YouTube channel to learn about the basics of what you need to know about diabetes and how to manage it.

Soul Food Is Food for the Soul! Video series

REACH partnered with Buffalo-based chef Alexa Wajed to create videos that reimagine soul food in a more healthful, nutritious way.

Episode 1: A versatile plant-based meal. You can also download the recipes (130 KB PDF).
Episode 2: Lentil soup. You can also download the recipe (100 PDF).

Tobacco-free living

“No Menthol Sunday” Pledge

The No Menthol Sunday Pledge is dedicated to educating the faith-based community about “Big Tobacco” marketing tactics, vaping, the role of flavors like menthol on black and brown communities in the city of Buffalo, New York, including the promotion of tobacco cessation supportive services.

Take the pledge!

Tobacco-free signage

If you’re interested in making your site tobacco-free, we offer signage including:

  • Multi-unit housing buildings
  • Businesses and worksites
  • Parks and trails
  • College campuses

Complete this form to request signage today.

Thank you for the Buffalo businesses that have adopted tobacco-free policies!

More than Buffalo businesses and housing areas have adopted tobacco-free policies. See a current list of participating businesses and email REACH@caiglobal.org to learn how to join them!