In March, I lost my dad to cancer after battling the disease for a little over a year. It was, and still is, an unbelievably painful loss. As I adjust to a new normal, I’ve reflected over and over again on how much my dad had to go through in the last year of his life. Countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, weekly—and eventually daily—visits with physicians and nurses, many trips to the emergency room, a few experimental treatments, and one major surgery.
It’s been one crazy, rollercoaster ride of a year for health care, too. There were countless efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health clinics expired—leaving more than 90,000 Colorado kids and pregnant women at risk of losing coverage and hundreds of thousands of Coloradans at risk of losing their local clinic if Congress does not act by the end of the year—and a deceptive tax reform bill that will lead to 13 million people without health care coverage through the elimination of the individual mandate. President Trump’s decision to end DACA also put the health and safety of 17,000 young Coloradans at risk. I could go on and on.
In the 20 years since our founding, a lot has changed. Our communities face different health challenges, and new policies mean new successes and new barriers to confront. To better address the needs of our state, we knew it was time for a change. In March, we rebranded and launched as Center for Health Progress. And, we strengthened our commitment to addressing the root causes of health disparities. We’ve done so by releasing a graphic novel that examines some of the oppressive systems and policies that have led to preventable health disparities, addressing white privilege, and championing important immigrant rights issues from the grassroots to the Capitol. As we’ve adjusted to our new normal, we have been embracing our role as leaders and conveners, we’ve committed publically to achieving health equity for our state, and we planted seeds in Fort Morgan and Pueblo, where we are working alongside the community to ensure all voices are heard and considered in health care decisions.
So, yeah. It’s been quite the year. It’s been divisive. It’s been mean. It’s been scary. But, I’ve also seen communities come together to fight for the issues that matter most to them, I’ve seen countless protests that prove there is power in the people, and a new sense of urgency to be informed and involved in politics. As we move into 2018, we will keep prioritizing our neighbors, fighting health disparities, and ensuring that all Coloradans have access to care and the opportunity to live a healthy life.
Losing my dad has changed me in ways I didn’t know were possible. But, I will always be thankful that he was able to get the care he needed to give him a fighting chance. My dad was taken from me too soon, and it will always feel unfair, but not as unfair as all the families who never had the chance to fight at all. Our health care system can and should work for everyone, regardless of race, income, and ZIP code, and that’s what drives our work. It’s been a year of change, struggle, and growth. But for the love of health equity, I will keep going. And, I hope you will, too.