Rolling Out

Breaking barriers to good health and transforming communities with Dr. Jean Accius

From Haiti to health equity leader, Dr. Accius transforms systems to ensure every person thrives

In the fast-evolving landscape of health equity, few leaders have made as significant an impact as Dr. Jean Accius. As the President and CEO of Creating Healthier Communities (CHC), Dr. Accius has dedicated his career to ensuring that every person, regardless of their background, can live a longer, healthier, and more productive life. In a recent conversation with Kevin Hooks, host of Equity in Focus, Dr. Accius shared his journey, insights, and the transformative work being done to address health inequities across the United States.

From humble beginnings to health equity leader

Dr. Accius’s journey began in Haiti, where he was raised by his grandmother for the first four years of his life. She instilled in him the values of hard work, determination, and perseverance. These early lessons became the cornerstone of his life and career.

Reflecting on his upbringing, Dr. Accius shared, “Growing up, I saw the stark differences between the haves and the have-nots. This disparity drove me to understand why these inequities existed and what could be done to address them.”

His path was not straightforward. Dr. Accius emphasized the importance of saying “yes” to opportunities, no matter how small they seemed at the time. From unpaid internships to volunteer work in community health centers, each experience was a step towards understanding and addressing the systemic barriers to health equity.

“It’s about leaning into your passion and using that as a guide to make a difference in society,” he said.

The mission of CHC

At the heart of Dr. Accius’s work is CHC, an organization that has been around for nearly 70 years. CHC operates at the intersection of nonprofit, private industry, and community-based organizations, impacting about 5,000 nonprofits annually. Their vision is clear: to ensure that every person in every community has the opportunity to live their healthiest life.

“Our mission is to address the root causes of health inequities through partnerships, providing critical investments into communities so they can thrive,” Dr. Accius explained.

Dr. Accius pointed out the stark contrast in life expectancies between different neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

“In Georgetown, life expectancy is about 94 years, while in Anacostia, it’s 67,” he said. “These neighborhoods are less than five miles apart. This gap in life expectancy is a clear indicator of the health inequities that exist.”

Such disparities are not just statistics; they represent lost time with loved ones, missed opportunities, and a diminished quality of life.

Collaboration and systemic change

Addressing health inequities requires a collaborative effort. Dr. Accius highlighted the importance of partnerships across sectors.

“No one organization can solve these issues in isolation. It takes collective action across industries and sectors to drive systemic change,” he emphasized. CHC leverages its extensive network to tackle these challenges, focusing on community-led solutions and innovative approaches to health care delivery.

The recent announcement by Vice President Harris to remove medical debt from credit scoring processes is a step towards addressing economic inequities caused by health disparities. Dr. Accius shared a personal story to underscore the importance of this initiative, illustrating the devastating impact of medical debt on individuals and families.

“Access to healthcare should be a fundamental right, not a privilege,” he asserted, echoing Dr. Martin Luther King’s sentiments on the inhumanity of healthcare inequities.

The long game: Hope and interdependence

Dr. Accius’s message is one of hope and interdependence. He challenged the notion of independence, advocating instead for a focus on collective effort and mutual support. “We all have a responsibility to eliminate these disparities. The goal is interdependence, where we recognize that what we do impacts others and vice versa,” he said.

For those looking to join the fight for health equity, Dr. Accius’s advice is clear: stay hopeful and committed.

“This work is about changing systems and impacting lives,” he said. “It may take time, but the long-term benefits are profound.”

A distinguished career

Before joining CHC, Dr. Accius was part of the policy team for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and spent more than 15 years at AARP, where he most recently served as Senior Vice President of International Affairs and Global Thought Leadership. At AARP, he and his team created a business case for age diversity in the workforce and conducted seminal research on the contributions of the aging population to the global economy.

Dr. Accius’s leadership has been widely recognized, earning him accolades such as Next Avenue’s Influencer in Aging Award (2020) and Black Enterprise magazine’s Modern Man of Distinction (2018). He has been featured in major media outlets including The New York Times, Forbes, and TIME Magazine, and has facilitated sessions at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

A certified director with the National Association of Corporate Directors and a fellow with the Executive Leadership Council, Dr. Accius holds degrees from Florida State University and a Ph.D. from American University School of Public Affairs. His education and extensive experience equip him to drive systemic change and improve health outcomes across communities.

To support Creating Healthier Communities and their mission, visit As Dr. Accius reminded us, “We all have an opportunity to drive systemic change and create healthier, more inclusive communities.”

Through his leadership at CHC, Dr. Accius is not only addressing health inequities but also inspiring others to join the journey towards a more equitable and just society. His story is a testament to the power of determination, collaboration, and the unwavering belief that every person deserves the opportunity to live their healthiest life.

AI assisted in summarizing this episode of Equity in Focus.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Join our Newsletter

Sign up for Rolling Out news straight to your inbox.

Read more about:
Also read
Rolling Out