Looking at Health Through the Equity Lens Approach

As has become an annual activity for our organization, before we ring in the new year, we take a look back at events, projects and moments from 2014 that have impacted the health care scene in our communities and our nation.

On day nine of our Year In Review series, Health Forward Program Officer Adriana Pecina was inspired by a conference that explored incorporating equity into funding strategies.

This year, I was fortunate to attend the first ever Convergence Leadership Institute (CLI), during which we explored how to incorporate equity into funding strategies.

The CLI was hosted by the National Convergence Partnership, which was created to promote policies and practices that advance the convergence vision of healthy people in healthy places. They accomplish this by strengthening advocacy capacity and leadership.

Eighteen teams consisting of foundation leadership, staff, consultants and nonprofit partners participated in this two-day institute. We heard from national and regional convergence leaders, racial equity and advocacy trainers, and local community leaders about various ways to impact policy and build advocacy capacity through grantmaking and community engagement.

In addition to hearing from leaders in the field, participants engaged in small group and roundtable discussions focused on strategies for promoting policies and practices to advance healthy people in healthy places.

At the close of the event, teams shared how they plan to commit to equity when they return to their states and regions. As I considered what to write about my Year in Review entry, I felt compelled to share with you what I brought back to our region:

If we truly want lasting, meaningful or sustainable change, beyond a grant or the presence of funders, we need to work to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to participate and prosper.
It’s about helping communities come up with their own solutions. We need to listen and be humble.
Use an asset-based approach. Don’t marginalize, but LIFT UP.
“Fear trumps facts.” We don’t know what we don’t know. We’re not the experts, but we need to be brave and courageous and know that if we fail, it’s okay to get up and try again. Fail fast and fail forward. Learn from it.
Our work needs to be rooted in culture and tradition of community. We need to have respect for each other, to be genuine and authentic, to be a bridge and to be reflective of the community we serve
The institute provided a great opportunity to see not so much what we can do but HOW it can be done. Reflecting on 2014, the Community Conversation on Health was a great step toward bringing people of all voices together to discuss community health solutions.

In 2015, how will you incorporate equity considerations into your strategy? There are a few simple questions that can help guide your efforts.

When developing a project ask yourself:

• What inequities will be reduced as a result of this strategy?
• How will your strategy promote meaningful and authentic community engagement?
• How does the proposed strategy affect policy and or systemic change
• How does this action help to achieve greater racial and economic equity such that it will expand opportunity and access for those most impacted by the inequities (race, class, socio-economic, geographic, etc.)

I left the conference inspired and proud. Inspired by the work going on. Inspired to do more. And proud to be part of an organization that, since inception, has used the health equity lens in all that it does. I know in the years ahead we will continue to look for better opportunities to listen to and help elevate the voices of the most affected: people of under-resourced communities and people of color.

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006