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December 6, 2022 | CHC News
PEACE & HEALTH
How a group of small-town activists and college students set out to change healthcare
By Charles Barber
“The story of the development of this community health center is awesome and inspiring. It is a striking example of individuals in a community recognizing an urgent need and working together to address that need. The Community Health Center exists today because of individuals who had a vision, and acted to fulfill it, exhibiting ingenuity, determination and persistence in overcoming many obstacles — social, cultural and economic.” – Louis W. Sullivan, MD President Emeritus, Morehouse School of Medicine and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 1989-1993
In 1972, a college dropout had the radical idea of bringing free healthcare to his New England hometown of Middletown, Conn. Without money or training, Mark Masselli faced down opposition from the local hospital and City Hall, and raised the banner that “healthcare is a right not a privilege.” Along the way, he found partners in the daughter of a sharecropper, who made her way north during the great migration and becomes the North Star of the drive to transform health in the community; the son of a Jewish émigré and pharmacist who breaks from his peers to support the cause; the musician who played in the big bands of the South in the 1930’s, who loses his teeth and is now determined to make sure others do not lose theirs; and the college student and future US Senator who helps buy the building so the free clinic would not be shut down permanently.
Powerfully told by acclaimed writer Charles Barber, PEACE & HEALTH depicts Masselli’s remarkable journey to build the Community Health Center in Middletown, Conn., an organization that opened with one dentist chair and grew to serve hundreds of thousands of previously underserved patients and touched the lives of millions more with an inclusive model of healthcare and a foundational belief that such care is a right.
At once a profoundly moving story of one institute, PEACE & HEALTH also offers an incisive exploration of healthcare in America, from local politics to federal funding battles; an investigation of the impact of community organizing with takeaway for today’s activists; and the importance of patient involvement in the creation of places that are said to serve them but so frequently ignore their needs.
From telehealth to domestic violence prevention, the instantaneous implementation of one of the largest Covid vaccine sites in the country, a world-renowned research Institute, and more, Community Health Center is a remarkable example of one man’s relentless drive to offer care to all who need it and the constellation of people who helped make that vision a reality.
Inspiring and deeply affecting, PEACE & HEALTH illuminates what we might learn from an organization that has prioritized community involvement and innovation from its start and continues to lead the way for what healthcare can and should be.
PEACE & HEALTH is available on amazon.com, bookshop.org, and barnesandnoble.com and is available for order by local independent booksellers.
About the Author
Charles Barber is a Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University, a Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and the author of the critically acclaimed books Songs from the Black Chair, Comfortably Numb, Citizen Outlaw, and the forthcoming In the Blood. He has written widely on mental health and criminal justice issues in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, The Nation, and Scientific American Mind, and has appeared on the BBC, CNN, CBS News, and NPR’s Fresh Air. He was educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities, and lives in Connecticut with his family.
PRAISE FOR PEACE & HEALTH
“Peace &Health reads like a novel but is all true…” – Joseph J. Fins, MD, Professor of Medical Ethics & Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
It’s a wonderful book about a wonderful health center, and great reading for anyone interested in health, communities, or who wants to hear a real-life uplifting story. –Tom Frieden, President and CEO, Resolve to Save Lives, former Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“An antidote to modern cynicism. Charles Barber brilliantly tells the astonishing story of how an idea—healthcare as a right for all—can become a reality in one community. If you think it can’t be done, read this book!” –Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of When We Do Harm
“In this affecting and expertly crafted book, Charles Barber tells the story of how a few inspired, resourceful, militantly decent people created from scratch an enduring institution that makes a lot of people’s lives better–a much-needed reminder of what we’re capable of at our best.” –Carlo Rotella, Professor of English, Boston College and author of The World Is Always Coming to an End
“Peace & Health captures the spirit of Mark Masselli as he journeyed from Wesleyan to the North End of Middletown, engaging everyone one in the neighborhood, all while promoting justice, health access, and equity. For those committed to community engagement, this book provides a deep wellspring of hope.” –Chyrell Bellamy, MSW, PhD. Director of the Yale Program on Recovery and Community Health
“Charles Barber combines the artistry of a novelist and the skills of a reporter to introduce the founders, providers and patients that epitomize the spirit of a great experiment that serves 30 million low-income Americans.” –Michael Rowe, PhD, author of Citizenship and Mental HealthRead More