Focusing on Lung Health Education for African American Communities 

Chanda Nicole Holsey, DrPH, MPH, AE-C

By: Kendra Benner 
February 8, 2023 

When the executive team of the African American Wellness Project (AAWP) saw how African Americans were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to revitalize their organization through virtual education. 

In 2021, AAWP executive team member, Chanda Nicole Holsey, DrPH, MPH, AE-C, applied for a CHEST Foundation grant to further expand the educational offerings at the nonprofit organization, whose mission is empowering African Americans to improve health outcomes and promote wellness. 

The community service grant Dr. Holsey received funded virtual programming about lung diseases that disproportionately impact African Americans and other at-risk populations. She and her colleagues created eight webinars and podcast episodes on asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and COVID-19. 

“We helped [our audiences] understand accurate information from a trusted source that would help them learn about these conditions and help lessen morbidity and mortality in this population,” Dr. Holsey said. 

Through partnerships with organizations like—the world’s largest online health resource for African Americans—AAWP expanded its reach. The AAWP team also cohosted two lung health webinars with the Jacksonville, Florida, chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., a membership organization of mothers dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders. 

An AAWP session with the Jacksonville, Florida, chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

“We initially thought it might be a challenge to reach people [during the pandemic], but we were able to meet that challenge because of the efforts of engagement that we had already established with some of our other programs,” Dr. Holsey said. 

Without the grant support, AAWP wouldn’t have been able to provide education for teens about the dangers of vaping, Dr. Holsey said. In January 2022, AAWP worked with the Jacksonville chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., to host a virtual teen panel about the ways that vaping contributes to lung health conditions.   

“One teen had to face [vaping] pressures in real life, and he indicated that some of the skills and stories he heard from another teen helped him navigate that peer pressure. [Without the grant], we would not have been able to reach that group of teens to talk to them about this critical issue and impact their lives,” Dr. Holsey said. 

AAWP also used the grant funding to produce three episodes of its Black Doctors Speak podcast featuring experts like James Jackson, CEO of the Alameda Health System in California, and Kim Rhoads, MD, MS, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco. 

The podcast episodes, which were hosted by AAWP Founder, Michael A. Lenoir, MD, discussed the latest COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health during the pandemic, and long COVID. 

“Individuals [in our audiences] talked about how they were able to share this information with family members,” Dr. Holsey said. “The funding from the CHEST Foundation helped us reach our goals and impact the community in which we serve.”  

Support initiatives like the African American Wellness Project by donating to the CHEST Foundation. If you’re interested in applying for a grant, explore community service and research grant opportunities.