(BOSTON, MA) – At age 17, during a carjacking near his home in Puerto Rico, Germán Parodi was shot in the neck and suffered a spinal cord injury that left him with badly damaged vocal cords and without the use of his legs. He moved to Philadelphia with his grandmother in search of better healthcare and more accessible housing in 2004.

Fifteen years later, Germán, who remains quadriplegic, has not only recovered the ability to talk, but has developed a powerful voice, speaking out on behalf of people with disabilities locally, nationally and internationally. He also has become one of the nation’s leading advocates around inclusive disaster preparedness and relief.

“We all have a voice,” Germán says. “If we put them together, we can make change. We can create any future we desire.”

The Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation (The Center) at Community Catalyst has recognized Germán and his inspiring work, making the Philadelphia resident the winner of the second annual Speak Up for Better Health Award. This prize honors exceptional people raising their voices and working to improve their health and the health of their communities.

The full story of Germán Parodi’s advocacy and the other contest winners can be found here.

“Too often, the voices of those most affected by health care policies and decisions are excluded from the conversation,” said Ann Hwang, MD, director of The Center. “Germán and the other honorees of this year’s Speak Up for Better Health Award show just how powerful it can be when an individual speaks up in a way that brings people together to advocate for changes that make our healthcare system work better for all of us.”

The Center also announced three additional honorees for the award, including:

  • Elizabeth Wills-O’Gilvie, from Springfield, MA, who found her voice as a passionate and highly effective advocate for access to healthy food in the community—especially for children;
  • Sherman Pines, from Newport, RI, a tireless advocate for better non-emergency medical transportation and care for those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid in his state; and
  • Wendy Thomas, from Providence, RI, a formerly homeless woman who works to increase awareness of – and find solutions to – the many health challenges homeless people face.

The 2019 Speak Up for Better Health Award generated nominations from around the country. Winners were chosen by an esteemed panel of judges that included:

  • Elena Hung, the President and Co-Founder of Little Lobbyists. Hung was the winner of the inaugural Speak Up for Better Health contest in 2018.
  • Tara Oakman, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • Barbara Petee, Executive Director of the Root Cause Coalition.
  • Soma Saha (Soma Stout), Vice President at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).
  • Loel Solomon, Vice President for Community Health at Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit Program.

“It was truly inspiring to read the nominations we received for this year’s Speak Up for Better Health contest,” said judge and last year’s winner Elena Hung. “I believe in the power of stories to create change, and Germán and the other honorees are strong examples of how critical it is for people in communities across the country to boldly raise their voices and talk about the health care issues that matter most in their own lives and the lives of those they love. And it’s important for policymakers, health system leaders, and clinicians to listen to those voices.” 

The Speak Up for Better Health Award comes with a $500 first prize. Additional honorees receive $200.


About the Center for Consumer Engagement In Health Innovation
The Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation at Community Catalyst is a hub devoted to teaching, learning and sharing knowledge to bring the consumer experience to the forefront of health innovation in order to deliver better care, better value and better health for every community, particularly vulnerable and historically underserved populations. The Center’s work is supported through investments in state and local advocacy, leadership development, research and evaluation, and consultative services to delivery systems and health plans. Visit healthinnovation.org or follow the Center on Twitter @CCEHI to learn more and follow our work.