Bellamy Riley and Darcy Strayer


Where does public health take you? 

DS: Health Education requires networking and reaching our communities where they are. People have busy lives, sex is a part of it, and we want to be a part of their sexual health and well-being.

BR: If you ask people to come to your STI event, they won’t. So we’re at community events at Diversity, at Monroe Park, at local pharmacies, at festivals and events, at rec centers and libraries.

Where did you learn about public health (and who’s your public health hero)? 

BR: Evan Thornburg is a bioethicist who specifically studies misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories as threats to public health. And they come from HIV-land!

DS: Lisa Raville is the woman who turned me into a harm reductionist. She runs the Harm Reduction Action Center in Denver. She’s the first White person I heard say loud and clear: “If incarceration and punishment worked to combat addiction, we would have solved this issue years ago.” You can check out her really good TEDx Talk!

Where were you before public health? 

DS: I come from the world of activist organizing and for me, I just wasn’t seeing a lot of change happening for real people suffering in real time. And I wanted to be kinder to myself. Learning about harm reduction was so powerful for me, because then I could look at my life in every area and say, “where is there harm in my life and how do I reduce it?”

Where would we be likely to find you after work? 

BR: Two out of my five workdays, I go straight to roller derby! I’m either at home or at the roller dome.


Random Round! 

What’s Richmond’s best month? 

BR: June. I love the heat, and Richmond is such a river city and that’s when you can really get into it.


What are you reading, watching, or listening to right now?

DS: My spouse and I watch a different movie every night. Lately, I’ve been into 90s action. My two faves are Speed and Point Break.


What’s your walk-up song? 

BR:  My roller derby team’s roll-out song is Tubthumping by Chumbawamba! In derby workouts, you have to do a full lunge every time you hear the word “down” in that song, so it’s basically team intimidation.


Which sandwich best describes your style of working?

DS: An avocado tuna melt. Delicious and filling and just a little bit special.

BR: A deconstructed croque monsieur. Very organized but everything’s separate.


Would you rather be a ghost or a dog?

Both: Dogs!

Richmond Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

On Monday, July 26, Richmond joined more than 200 other localities across the US to declare racism a public health crisis. By unanimous decision, Richmond City Council adopted the declaration and committed not only to acknowledging disparities and injustices but to becoming an actively anti-racist government that centers racial justice work in all aspects of its work. This is a huge step for our city, though the declaration itself is only a symbol that will need to be followed by bold and consistent action in order to create real change. 

Systemic racism in Richmond has taken an enormous toll on the health of Black residents for generations and persists in countless ways today. The Center on Society and Health at VCU found that residents of low-income Black communities in the East End of Richmond have a life expectancy that is 20 years shorter on average than White residents in wealthy West End neighborhoods. Black residents are also at far greater risk of experiencing pregnancy complications and premature birth, chronic disease, housing and food insecurity, asthma, violence, and personal and community trauma, among many other challenges. Recent data also shows that Black residents of Richmond accounted for 62% of the city’s COVID-19 cases, though they make up only 47% of the city’s population. 

These health disparities are primarily caused not by residents’ behavior and choices but by the social determinants of health: the underlying conditions that determine a person’s ability to be healthy and well, such as safe housing and neighborhoods, education and job opportunities, healthcare access and quality, and systemic and overt racism. Richmond and Henrico Health Districts are committed to doing as much as we can to dismantle the systems that help racism, trauma, and health disparities to persist. 

In April, when racism was declared a public health crisis in Virginia, our Director of Health Equity, Jackie Lawrence, outlined some calls to action for RHHD as we deepen our health equity and racial justice work. Here’s what Jackie outlined as the kind of work you can expect from RHHD, and we welcome opportunities to talk and partner with you on the road ahead: 

We will name and respect the collective trauma we continue to experience. We cannot expect ourselves to operate outside of these authentic, very visceral emotions, and our work will get heavier as we move further into confronting racism and systemic injustice in our work. RHHD is working to normalize a culture that encourages staff to take time to process their emotions, whether it is taking a day off or taking 15 minutes to breathe between meetings. We encourage our partners to promote this culture of empathy and self-care within their workplaces as well. 

We will challenge ourselves and each other every day to ask hard questions without being afraid of the conversations and changes that will follow. “What does health and wellness truly mean to me, and to the communities we serve?” “Have I made space to address my own healing so that I can better serve the community?” “How has my position or department upheld the inequities I have read about or experienced?” We will also continue to rely on partners and community members to hold a mirror up for us and help us see when we need to rethink our philosophy or approach. 

We will become the kind of agency that radically imagines, plans, and implements systems changes that can remove obstacles, ensure resilience, and highlight joy in communities of color. Institutional racism has prevented people of color from accessing high-quality, culturally responsive care and resources for generations, and these disparities result in deep harm and trauma, including the increase in gun violence we have seen in recent weeks. This work is difficult, but it is essential, and we are ready to do whatever we can. 

Richmond is the first locality in Virginia to declare racism a public health crisis. Along with the declaration, City Council has committed to reviewing policies through an anti-racist lens; requiring anti-racism training for city officials and employees; and creating a task force to establish a police oversight and accountability board. RHHD is proud to partner in this work and is eager to see how Richmond’s anti-racist efforts continue to expand and evolve following this powerful declaration.

Community Hubs bring the COVID-19 vaccine to our most vulnerable neighborhoods

March 16, 2021: Our goal is to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as equitably as possible, which means finding outreach and vaccination strategies that address the needs of specific communities. To make it easier for every person in Richmond and Henrico to learn about and access the COVID-19 vaccine, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts are partnering with faith-based organizations across our region to set up Community Hubs for COVID-19 outreach and vaccination.

What is a Community Hub?

Community Hubs are located in neighborhoods where residents experience greater barriers to vaccination and overall health. Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will partner with a nonprofit organization to conduct outreach to community members and help them understand, register for, and receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Each Community Hub will operate for six weeks, and a total of six Community Hubs will operate across Richmond and Henrico throughout the spring and summer.
The first Community Hub is currently taking place at Second Baptist Church on Broad Rock Blvd on the Southside of Richmond and has vaccinated 1,400 residents as of March 6!

Why the Community Hub approach?

Mass vaccination events work well for many residents, but they may exclude residents who lack transportation to the vaccination site, have trouble accessing the registration system, or lack trust in healthcare providers or new medical developments, and are reluctant to pursue vaccination. In Richmond and Henrico, these barriers are most common in neighborhoods where residents are older, have lower-incomes, and/or identify as Black or Hispanic/Latinx. These same communities historically have not received high-quality health care, are at higher risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19, and deserve all the resources we can offer as soon as possible.

By partnering with faith-based organizations that have a strong community presence and have built lasting trust with residents, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will be better able to connect with residents and provide easier access to the vaccine.

How are we choosing Community Hub sites?

We are identifying partners and sites with the greatest potential for positive community impact through these three steps:

  1. Use available data to find a neighborhood where a Hub would have a significant impact. Our vaccination team is looking at maps of existing vaccination providers to identify neighborhoods with the least access to the vaccine. We are also identifying zip codes with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths and prioritizing neighborhoods with higher Social Vulnerability Index scores. The Social Vulnerability Index is a CDC tool that helps identify communities that are most likely to experience a greater burden of disease and hardship in the event of an emergency. It examines factors such as race, language of origin, and rates of poverty, employment, educational attainment, transportation access, and homeownership. In Richmond and Henrico, neighborhoods with a high SVI score house mostly Black, Latinx, or older residents and are seeing higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
  2. Identify a partner organization. The ideal partner has relationships with diverse community members and is eager to help conduct outreach and advocate for vaccination.
  3. Find the right location. An ideal vaccination site is a large, indoor space with restrooms, lots of available parking, and easy access by bus.

How is it going so far?

Second Baptist Church has been an amazing first Community Hub partner! In February, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts provided Second Baptist with up-to-date information to share with residents about the vaccine as well as a list of available appointment slots at the Community Hub. By tapping into their networks, going door-to-door, and offering residents an opportunity to talk with someone trustworthy and familiar about the vaccine, Second Baptist helped over 1,400 residents to register for vaccination, 1,250 residents of whom will have been vaccinated at the Second Baptist Community Hub.

Marc Jolley from Second Baptist says the church’s relationships with the congregation and surrounding community, especially older residents, has helped many to overcome their hesitancy about the vaccine. “Pastor Hodge and our 95-year-old church mother were the first to be vaccinated at our church,” Jolley says. “This set the stage for other seniors and baby boomers.” Second Baptist also wrapped up their 10-week Feed the Seniors program just as the vaccination program was beginning, which made contacting older congregation members easier. Jolley says the experience has been really meaningful for church leadership, especially playing a role in connecting seniors to the vaccine. “We had several people cry that they were so happy to receive their vaccination,” Jolley says. “We also have received cards and phone calls expressing gratitude and thanks for our efforts leading this project in the community.”

Community Hub vaccination events are staffed by Medical Reserve Corps volunteers who have been working throughout the pandemic to provide our communities with information, resources, and care they can trust. If you are interested in volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps, visit the Richmond City Health District website to learn more.