REACH Lark Galloway-Gilliam Award for Advancing Health Equity


Racial and ethnic disparities in health are widespread across the United States. The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program demonstrates success in addressing these disparities and promoting health equity. Program partners work with many and various communities to carry out culturally tailored interventions. The REACH Lark Award honors extraordinary individuals, organizations, or community coalitions associated with the REACH program.

Lessie Williams

2020 Lark Award winner Lessie Williams.

Oregon Leader Receives First REACH Lark Award

Lessie Williams received the first REACH Lark Award in August 2020. For 20 years, including five years as Executive Director, Williams worked for Highland Haven, a non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon. She created youth violence prevention programs, expanded access to culturally-relevant mental health services, and launched culturally-tailored health education programs to promote healthy behaviors such as healthy eating, physical activity, and tobacco cessation.

“I am a helper by nature. When I know I can help, I feel an obligation to make a difference,” Williams said.

Williams organized a network of churches and community organizations serving African Americans in Multnomah County. She worked through this network to increase access to health care, bring preventive services such as blood pressure screenings to community churches, and to increase access to healthy foods.

Highland Haven partners with the Multnomah County Health Department, a REACH recipient. See more.

Award recipients advance the science and practice of improving health equity to eliminate health disparities at the national, state, or local levels. Conditions addressed may include hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or obesity and associated risk behaviors of physical inactivity, poor nutrition, or smoking.

About Lark Galloway-Gilliam

This award is in honor of Lark Galloway-Gilliam—the founding executive director of Community Health Councils, Inc. The council began in 1992 to support planning, resource development, and policy education in response to the growing health crisis in the South Los Angeles area. The Council’s work extends to other under-resourced and marginalized communities throughout Los Angeles County.

Lark led the Community Health Councils, Inc. to engage communities and strengthen the connections among organizations to improve health, eliminate disparities, and achieve health equity. Under Lark’s leadership, the council became an expert in health equity in Los Angeles, across California, and in the country. Lark also served in several leadership roles, including the first president of the National REACH Coalition, the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center Advisory Board, and the Institute for People, Place and Possibility Board of Directors for Community Commons.