Joshua Brown, HIV Outreach and Health Educator

“We need to continue to raise awareness about HIV. We need to erase the stigma by making it less of a taboo subject to talk about.”

As a lifelong community advocate, Joshua Brown is a strong believer in the impact that outreach initiatives can have on a community. He was able to see that impact firsthand as part of his volunteer service as a Boy Scout during his youth and throughout his professional career after graduating from Xavier University with a criminal justice degree.

Joshua joined the Minority Health Coalition of Marion County in 2014 as its HIV Outreach and Health Educator, a role that was similar to the one he had while working at the Damien Center, a nonprofit in Indianapolis. He also has worked as a domestic violence advocate.

He believes that much more work needs to be done to raise awareness about HIV, especially the ongoing stigma of talking about it.

“From the perspective of someone who works in an organization focused on minority communities, I see a cultural conservatism,” Joshua says. “The way people think about HIV in those communities is still stuck in the 1990s when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV.”

A lot has changed since that time, Joshua pointed out. “The advances in medical treatment have really come a long way. We’re in an era in which people are living longer and healthier lives with HIV treatment and medication,” he says. “I don’t think young people are being educated about it in the public sphere.”

As part of his role as an HIV Outreach and Health Educator, Joshua regularly talks to people of different ages, including youth, about HIV and those medical advances.

“We do educational presentations and workshops that cover a whole spectrum of audiences, from schools to jails and homeless shelters,” he says. “We offer for anyone who wants to gain that type of educational knowledge about the disease that’s generally not talked about. We also offer counseling and testing for HIV and other STDs.”

Joshua also said he takes the time to interact with his audiences, which can be equally important to many of them. “I listen to a lot of stories,” he says.

 

Mary Payton, Health Educator, Indianapolis Healthy Start

“Grassroots programs, as well as faith-based efforts, can make a significant difference in the health of our communities. They are critical to increasing awareness about challenges like infant mortality rates.”

As a health educator for the Minority Health Coalition of Marion County and the Indianapolis Healthy Start Program, Mary Payton specializes in initiatives that meet a wide range of needs throughout the community. For more than 10 years, she has served in this role — hosting community presentations, events and consultations to help people throughout the area lead healthier lifestyles. Her work specifically focuses on health issues impacting women, infants and their families.

Mary believes in a healthy start for every child born in Marion County. “I want to make sure that every baby born is healthy and is able to see their 366th day of life,” Mary says.

She says turning around the infant mortality rates in Marion County and throughout Indiana continues to require hard work and many people working together. “It takes a village. We still have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, especially among African Americans,” she says. “Right now, the infant mortality rate is hovering around 15 per 1,000 births. We have a lot of work to do.”

In her role as Health Educator for MHCMC and Indianapolis Healthy Start, Mary hosts educational classes on parenting, safe sleep techniques, prenatal care and healthier lifestyles.

For many years, Mary has had a deep passion for serving those in need and matching them with the necessary resources that can help them most. In recognition of her dedication to this ongoing work, she has been recognized with numerous awards and appointments to numerous community and faith-based organizations.

Mary holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Martin University. She also has a master’s degree in Community Psychology, along with several certifications.

 

Tiffany K. Nichols, Tobacco Program Coordinator

“If my work helps a child to decide to never start smoking, then my work is good. If I can go to a high school game and no one is smoking, that’s meaningful. It’s lasting help.”

With smoking ranked as the leading preventable cause of death, Tiffany Nichols is on a mission to reduce the impact of tobacco on Marion County residents. For more than 15 years, she has served as a Tobacco Health Educator — a role she continues to hold for the MHCMC.

Tiffany knows from first-hand experience the impact that smoking can have on a family. “I come from a family of smokers. I was only four years old when my grandfather was struggling with complications from lung cancer,” she recalls. “That was in 1979 and it’s still imprinted in my head. “

The knowledge that people are dying from a preventable disease drives her passion with her work. “People can change their health through lifestyle and behavior changes,” she says.

One of the areas that she focuses on is reducing tobacco use among younger people. She notes that young people still think other addicting tobacco products are cool, including hookah pipes, marijuana or flavored tobacco products. “These can be a gateway to other addicting tobacco products,” she says.

Tiffany also works on programs to reduce adult tobacco use, partnering with healthcare providers, employee wellness clinics and other partners to make an impact.

Tiffany earned a bachelor of science degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and received a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. Tiffany also holds a certification in Tobacco Cessation and Counseling through Indiana University Health.

She is a member of Smokefree Indy and served as the first chair of the Indiana Black Expo’s African American Coalition against Tobacco.  

Tiffany has a message for every tobacco user in the community: “There’s help to quit.”