I truly believe that most of us who work in public health and health care are motivated, at least in part, because we care about people. Over the past decade, I have met many passionate folks for whom this is true in Colorado. In my current role, I have built relationships with many of these same people who believe health care is a right, and that it should be possible for everyone to get what they need to take care of themselves and their families. What is less common, is a structural understanding of what’s preventing that from happening now.
Our focus at Center for Health Progress is to shift power to patients and communities facing the biggest hurdles to good health, so that they can hold the health care system accountable to meeting their needs. To make meaningful change, we need people inside the health care system--maybe that’s you--to understand why health inequities exist in the first place, and to take action. That means understanding racism, classism, nationalism, how they operate in our society and institutions, the impact they have on people’s lives, and how we as individuals reinforce and participate in those systems.
One of the parts of my work I enjoy the most is getting to spread that understanding--especially by developing relationships with health care decision makers, leading trainings, supporting health equity strategy development for organizations, and providing individual coaching. Over the past year, we have refined our Waiting for Health Equity training and developed a new training: A History of Oppression in the US Health Care System. This training explores how health care has harmed, dehumanized, and sometimes killed in the name of “progress,” and contextualizes these truths in relation to our individual work and institutions. We also partnered in-depth with five health care organizations throughout all of 2019 to build their capacity to understand and address health inequities. Through our efforts, we have supported the learning of hundreds--maybe thousands--of health care and public health professionals across Colorado.
But increasing understanding isn’t enough; lasting change requires us to act. Every training, every discussion, every program needs to lead to commitments to take action and a plan to ensure success. In 2019, we supported health care organizations to develop and work toward ambitious equity goals and were thrilled to see how much progress they made, such as adding patient pronouns to intake forms, developing more equitable hiring processes, and launching patient advisory committees.
People working inside the health care system must use their voice and leverage their power to support the change that people impacted by injustice demand for themselves and their communities. You can do that in small ways, by contacting your legislators about a bill or writing an op-ed for your local paper. You can take action in bigger ways by changing discriminatory workplace policies or organizing your colleagues to demand your organization invest in things that keep people healthy like affordable housing. You can also join Center for Health Progress and participate in our campaigns. All of these actions, when taken together, have a big impact toward health equity. If you work in public health or health care and want to learn more and do more about the underlying causes of poor health, reach out to me today!