Remembering the Boston advocate who dedicated his life to health equity.
hero_image_alt_text===photo of Raheem Baraka
thumbnail_alt_text===photo of Raheem Baraka
This month, we would like to honor the legacy of a dedicated advocate from Boston, Massachusetts. Raheem Baraka passed away tragically and suddenly from a heart attack in September. He was the loving husband of Ysabel Alcantara Baraka and devoted father of Ayla Baraka of Hyde Park, Isaiah and Maya Baraka both of Dorchester. Raheem was a rare individual who combined a serious, purposeful, impactful drive to keep more hearts beating in the communities he loved with a sense of fun that was contagious. He served as the Chairman of the AHA’s Northeast Health Equity Consortium. This group was founded in 2017 and works to provide education and resources as well as advocate for policy, systems and environmental change centered around health equity. Raheem’s leadership was critical in getting this important effort off the ground and bringing together leaders from across the Northeast who are passionate about health outcomes for our most underserved populations. He was also an integral part of the AHA’s Multicultural Leadership Committee in Greater Boston.
Raheem was the founder and Executive Director of Baraka Community Wellness (BCW), a nonprofit community-based organization with a mission to close the gap on health disparities and reduce healthcare costs as they relate to preventable chronic diseases within vulnerable and at-risk populations. Specific to the mission, BCW provides wellness solutions for at-risk individuals and communities that engage, educate, and empower through developing and implementing programs that address the social and behavioral determinants of poor health outcomes with a focus on lifestyle and behavior, food access and education, and environmental contributors.
Prior to founding BCW, Raheem 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.
In addition to his advocacy work the AHA, Raheem was also actively involved in other population health efforts. He was a delegate for Food Solutions New England, a Healthy Boston Ambassador for a joint project with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and the Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH) and had an appointment on the board of directors of the global NGO Health Care Without Harm. Raheem was well 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.”
Those of us who had the privilege of being in Raheem’s presence were left better for it – more educated, more impassioned about our mission, and more determined than ever to fight for optimal health for all Americans. The fact that we have lost Raheem to heart disease -- the same illness he worked so hard to insure so many other people would never experience -- is poignant, painful, and an impetus for each of us to be an even more relentless force for a world of healthier lives.