Ivelyse Andino

Ivelyse Andino, CEO and Founder of Radical Health

“Community coming together can change what we know is health. That means that the solution we want to see and the change we want to see resides in lived experience. And within those, directly in our communities.”

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Meet Ivelyse Andino (eye-vaaa-lease). Ivelyse is a Bronx born and raised Afro-Boricua. She describes herself as “a raging extrovert who loves connecting with new people, and trading information on emerging artists, historical fiction and hidden thrift shops.” Ivelyse is the founder of Radical Health and is a current Civic Hall Organizer-in-Residence (CHOIR). You can connect with Ivelyse and Radical Health on Twitter. 

What Does She Do?

Ivelyse is the CEO and founder of Radical Health, the first Latina owned and operated benefit corp (http://benefitcorp.net/sites/default/files/documents/New_York_Benefit_Corp_How-To_Guide.pdf) in the Bronx addressing social determinants of health through community organizing and public health tech.

How Did She Get Into This Work?

“My upbringing totally shaped who I am.”

Ivelyse grew up in the South Bronx’s Mott Haven – the poorest Congressional district in America. Her mother worked in healthcare, beginning as a front desk receptionist, trained to be an EMT and then, a dialysis technician. All along the way, as her mother studied, she, too, learned everything from CPR to how to negotiate health care plan contracts. At one point, she was kicked out of school for using needles. Not for shooting up, but using them to pipette milk. As it was for her mother, Ivelyse saw the healthcare profession as a way up and out of the ‘hood. Initially, she was involved in healthcare marketing, training doctors on how to use new drug protocols, first with small pharmaceuticals, then large biotech companies such as Genentech and Pfizer. She developed a niche working closely with oncologists, which took her around the world where she was usually the only Latina working in that capacity. When she was still in her early twenties, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. By day, all the medical resources in the world were at her disposal. At night, she found herself at sea, unable to navigate Montefiore Hospital, despite her professional experience. Her mother passed away six months later, and Ivelyse found it too painful to continue working in oncology. Wanting to do something more impactful, shifted to working in healthcare tech where she was involved in bringing the first mobile app-prescribing platform to market, and along the way collaborated with healthcare organizations including Kaiser Permanente, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Carolina Health System, & NHS London.

Despite years of extensive travel — or perhaps because of it — Ivelyse stayed in the South Bronx. In 2014, she founded Radical Health with the mission of organizing marginalized communities to impact health care from the bottom up. Radical Health was informed and inspired by the activism and community organizing of the “Young Lords,” a 1960’s radical leftist Puerto Rican group, which was itself initially influenced by the Black Panthers. The legacy of the Young Lords included a focus on legislative action – from the creation of a patient’s bill of rights to the passage of new housing legislation — as well as the building of a hospital complex in the Bronx.

Radical Health focuses on the social determinants of health, including social, emotional, and environmental, all of which impact clinical outcomes. Between the South Bronx and the Upper East Side life expectancies can differ by up to eight years. “It’s less than a mile between the two areas,” asks Ivelyse, “why such a big disparity?”

Despite the uphill challenge, Ivelyse still sees what the Bronx can be: “Look at all the beauty. The potential. How then do we make space, bust down the walls, the stereotypes? Create space for this beauty to shine?”

What Project Is She Working On?

“Radical Health works with historically marginalized communities — young people, LGBTQ, elderly, and undocumented. We do community workshops. We organize so people know their neighbors – sharing experiences. When you help someone, support them, we grow together.”

Ivelyse is currently working on a project with the New York City Department of Education — funded with support from the Obama Foundation’s Brother’s Keeper initiative — to facilitate Community Conversations with students, parents, and school staff that will create hyperlocal resource maps and an eventual community-generated citywide needs assessment on the social determinants of health.

While noting that “funders and deep pockets don’t necessarily take chances on new ideas and approaches” — Ivelyse is bootstrapping Radical Health entirely — she points out that “there are leaders inside of these government spaces who understand the needs of the community, work really hard, are open to new ideas.”

Ivelyse is frank about how difficult it was to launch Radical Health, not only as a benefit corporation but as a Latina. “Someone told me I need a white man on my board!”

How Did She Come to Civic Hall?

Ivelyse is currently an Organizer in Residence at Civic Hall.

“I’ve always enjoyed the mission from afar. I had been a “lurker” of Civic Hall. I had visited Fifth Avenue. But [Civic Hall] felt inaccessible to me. I had shied away from incubators and accelerators because the impact was more important to me than profitability alone. When I saw the Organizer-in-Residence application, I was really thrilled. I thought that it was right up my alley – putting me in spaces where I could meet others who are doing this work.

When I started working out of Civic Hall last month I was a little apprehensive at first. Would it force me to alter who I am? How I navigate certain spaces? But the space has been really supportive, looking at different perspectives of intersectionality and integrating us community organizers into the space.”

What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?

Ivelyse has a range of asks for the community:

“What we’re really looking for are social impact grants and contracts. Hire us to do workshops and community engagement. We’re a health organization but we work best when we come alongside other orgs with a specific niche – whether it’s about criminal justice or educational reform…”

Radical Health will be publishing a report at the end of the year that’s a community-based participatory needs assessment. “It’s our way to hold systems and office-holders accountable. We’ll be hosting workshops across the boroughs, doing on-the-ground assessing what communities need in terms of help.

How Civic Hallers can help:

“If you have an organization/want to do work, help sponsor a workshop in a community or contribute to report. If you work with a specific population, help us collect data. Once the report comes out to join us in sharing and holding providers accountable. Why is this important? There hasn’t been a unified voice of the community around health the way there has been around incarceration or education. Health is different because it’s sensitive, intimate and personal. Let’s leverage the power that we have to make sure community voices are heard – and that systems are responsive to their needs.”

Her elevator pitch is the same for both funders and users:
“Community coming together can change what we know is health. That means that the solution we want to see and the change we want to see resides in lived experience. And within those, directly in our communities.”

As part of the community-based conversations around health that she and Radical Health are convening across New York City, Ivelyse expects to host a restorative health circle at Civic Hall in the next month or so. Watch for the date!
— at Civic Hall.