In recent years, health equity has become a priority for many public health organizations as they infuse equitable components within their organizational structure, approach, and strategies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, health equity is achieved when “every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full health potential” regardless of their social position or socially determined circumstances. Using this definition, Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association is demonstrating their commitment to equity by addressing the root causes of health inequities through state and local policy change. Voices for Healthy Kids and their partners acknowledge the sobering history of why many communities of color and low-to-moderate income communities have been disenfranchised, disinvested, and devalued for decades and how systemic barriers contribute to persistent health inequities.
One of the first opportunities to infuse equity is through research and data collection. Research and data allows us to determine the issue area a campaign will address, who it affects, and why. However, equity propels us to understand the narrative behind the numbers and acquire an understanding of a community’s context. Instead of using traditional methods of collecting data, a great way to build an inclusive movement is to engage community members. For example, a campaign may want to consider “hitting the streets’ and empower the community to own this process and collect their own data. Creating opportunities to engage community members and gather data within the community you are looking to impact provides the narrative behind the numbers. An advocacy campaign has the ability to think outside the box of tradition and to enter a space that is outside the realm of possibility.
Everyone has a role to play when improving the health and wellbeing of our communities. Authentically and genuinely engaging communities of color and low-to-moderate income communities is key to building an inclusive movement. Using an equity lens, requires us to invite new voices to our coalitions and advocacy efforts. Building a diverse coalition with a variety of perspectives and demographics is necessary to the success of campaigns. Extending these invitations to community leaders, grassroots organizations, and minority led and/or serving organizations may require us to heal broken bridges and support partner issue areas.
These are just a few ways to begin infusing equity within campaigns. Equity is not a destination, but a journey. Each of us must continue to wrestle with equity and continue to find innovative approaches to build power to create change. Infusing health equity from start to finish propels us to move beyond checking the box and having representation from a few racial and ethnic groups. Health equity forces us to address the root causes of inequities and to develop approaches that will have a lasting impact. Executing equity within our organizations and creating demand for equitable approaches will aid us in eliminating disparities within our lifetime. Public policy paired with successful implementation is key to creating sustainable improvements in population health. Together, we must work to use our organizational and individual assets to further advance equity and to one day eliminate health disparities.