By Dawn Wolfe
LANSING – In January, Michigan Department of Community Health’s Division of HIV/AIDS began making changes. Loretta Davis-Satterla, the division’s director, has not only helped with the birth of a new name and focus for the organization, but the creation of a new program as well.
Davis-Satterla’s division is now called the Division of Health, Wellness and Disease Control.
“It’s a very positive name, because it starts off with the concept of health and wellness,” she said.
In addition, Davis-Satterla has been charged with the creation of a new program, the goal of which is to address health disparities in minority populations.
The new program will take on “behavioral and social interventions to help people stay well,” Davis-Satterla said.
“I think it was a perfect fit for it to join us in the HIV area, because HIV has, in my opinion, really been the leader in designing and implementing behavioral interventions,” she continued.
The new program, still in its beginning stages, has awarded twelve grants to organizations that will directly help members of racial and ethnic minority groups develop healthy habits to either help avoid coming down with an illness, or ameliorate the impact of an existing disease. One funded program, for example, will work with local churches in Detroit and Southfield to target pre-diabetics and help them avoid developing the disease.
No HIV-related programs received funding for the current grant year, which, due to its start date in April, will run until September.
The new program is being funded partially through state funds raised by the increase in the cigarette tax, and partially through federal block grants – moneys that would disappear under George W. Bush’s proposed budget for 2006.
If funding for the initiative continues and grows sufficiently, however, Davis-Satterla is eager to begin funding agencies that address health disparities in the LGBT community.
“Any fragile, medically underrepresented population is the population that this health disparity program would be looking at,” she said. “And we know that there are some disparities in the gay and lesbian population as well.”
Davis-Satterla has been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS since the beginning, when she added a focus on the disease to her work as the director of clinical services for Planned Parenthood. From there, she went on to head the HIV/AIDS division at the Detroit Health Department before taking on her current tasks at MDCH.
Originally, though, Davis-Satterla planned on staying in women’s health and going on to become a midwife.
However, “during that time, here comes HIV – and I was absolutely amazed by it. … Evidently it was amazed by me, too – because it grabbed me, and it wouldn’t let me go,” she said.
“It wasn’t meant for me to deliver those babies,” she added, laughing.
A Chance to Make a Difference
Under Bush’s proposed 2006 budget, all block grant funding would disappear. Block grant funding is not only the source for part of the funds for Davis-Satterla’s new health disparities initiative, but for other vital services as well – including HIV/AIDS and STD programs.
Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and tell them to support continued funding for block grants. To find contact information for our national representatives, visit Project Vote Smart at http://www.vote-smart.org.