Reflecting on the past year at Health Forward, our work can be summarized as learning, listening, and reflecting. As we’ve shared, we spent 2021 in a purpose alignment process. This process allowed us to identify the motivation behind our work. This renewed commitment to our communities will guide our new, five-year purpose plan that will begin in 2022.
Despite another year of working from home and the complications of living through a pandemic, we were able put in the necessary work to thoughtfully craft new strategies and initiatives. It wasn’t easy, especially as we continued our work supporting our partners through the pandemic, advocating for Medicaid expansion and enrollment, and promoting vaccinations within our communities.
This purpose alignment process involved:
- Exploring data and research
- Reflecting on our work and impact to date
- Learning from other communities working to advance health equity
- Engaging multi-sector community stakeholders
- Listening to feedback on opportunities
- Examining the vast social and political factors influencing community health
In January, we will unveil our purpose plan with excitement and intention. We can assure you it will be strong and bold and will recast our leadership, advocacy, and resources to address the complexities of the current environment across our nation and in our communities.
Our president/CEO Qiana Thomason recently penned an opinion piece for The Kansas City Star that sets the course for our purpose. She wrote of a parable that connects the disparities we see in health outcomes with a broken bridge:
If a bridge is broken and people are continuing to fall in the water, we should not be investing resources to save people once they’re in danger of drowning. We should fix the bridge to prevent people from falling in the first place.
This parable informs our work and philosophy of working with our communities to find solutions that address the source of the problem so that we can repair the bridge and improve the systems under which we all live, work, and play.
In the article she states, “I’ve witnessed a narrow focus on health issues without adequate action on the social and political influencers that shape their health outcomes. Yet, there is undeniable evidence linking income, wealth and health, that makes it clear that policies and practices promoting economic equity may have the broadest impact on health.
We must also name the other underlying factor causing the greatest gaps in poor health. Racism — not race — is the predominant social influencer of health for people of color, and ultimately impacts us all. In the quest for health equity, antiracism and economic equity are interconnected.
We as a nation got to this place by design, through systems that were meant to separate us, withhold, and extract resources from our communities for the betterment of just a few. Our current moment signals a clarion call for a new social contract. One that, through design, redistributes power, money, and resources.”
It is this commitment to champion health equity through economic equity and racial justice that drives us.
As we look back on 2021, we want to extend our deepest appreciation to our staff, our board of directors, our Community Advisory Committee, and our partners who allowed us the time and space to leverage their collective knowledge, experience, expertise and aspirations to design our new purpose.
When we return in the new year, we will share our purpose plan with all of you. While we are excited to announce our new strategies and initiatives, we know that, to achieve our intended impact, it will take continued learning, listening, and reflection with our existing and new partners. We look forward to working together to realize our ambitious new purpose.
We wish everyone a happy holiday season and look forward to partnering with you to move health forward.