Representative Austin Davis Supports Mon Valley and Pennsylvania Through Pandemic
During a crisis like a pandemic, communities need leaders who are engaged, compassionate, and collaborative – and Pennsylvania Representative Austin Davis is one of Pittsburgh's best examples. The current chair of the Allegheny County House Democratic Delegation, Rep. Davis is a lifelong resident of McKeesport and a long-time public servant, having spent six years working for the county executive's office before being elected as a state representative. He is invested in the health and wellbeing of his community in the Mon Valley and has been a key partner of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) in advocating for public health. His work, especially to support women and children, has uplifted many across the Pittsburgh region and Pennsylvania through this difficult and unprecedented time.
Rep. Davis' experience growing up and working in McKeesport has shown him both the challenges and opportunities that accompany the work of revitalizing a community, especially with improving the health of women and children living in the region. To promote maternal health, Rep. Davis wants to address high maternal death rates, particularly among Black women, as well as remove barriers to healthcare access and support culturally competent, nondiscriminatory practices within the healthcare system. "Partnering with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, our healthcare providers, our hospitals, our doctors, as well as elected officials, we can come together and find some policy solutions around these issues," Rep. Davis said.
He points to the critical role of Pennsylvania's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and how he, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and regional leaders across PA have been working to increase enrollment in WIC and connections to wraparound supports for families. WIC is "an incredibly important program to low-income people in our region," says Rep. Davis. "Particularly here in the Mon Valley, we have a high number of families that are eligible for WIC."
"Dr. Deborah Bogen has articulated a wonderful vision, as the new Allegheny County Health Department Director, for where she'd like to take WIC," Rep. Davis said. We need to ensure WIC's presence in communities of eligible families and educate the public about the WIC Program, he says.
Rep. Davis is also committed to supporting the next generation of health activists. During JHF's 2020 Salk Health Activist Fellowship, he spoke with recent graduates and young professionals about maternal health issues. "It was wonderful to see so many young people taking up public health as their career. It really made me hopeful for the future, in terms of healthcare policy and in terms of actual health care. I learned a lot about what some of these young people are doing. It was really an opportunity for me to hear from them, what they needed from government, how we could be more responsive partners," he said.
Rep. Davis' most immediate plans are to help his region recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. He has already helped to organize vaccine clinics and access to COVID-19 testing, and to ensure Mon Valley residents had equitable access to these services. As COVID-19 vaccination rates in the Mon Valley remain relatively low, Rep. Davis is encouraging the public to get vaccinated. "From a government standpoint, we're doing everything we can to convince people, we just need people to be open to [the vaccine] now."
JHF is pleased to have worked alongside Rep. Davis to promote health across the region and the Commonwealth. On his connection to the Foundation, Rep. Davis said, "The Jewish Healthcare Foundation is a phenomenal partner here in our community… They've been critical partners in terms of my advocacy and my work, but they've just done phenomenal things in our region to improve health outcomes, particularly among low-income families."