Stories & News
How healthy we are is strongly influenced by our society’s systems and policies. To advance racial equity and economic inclusion, Health Forward is partnering with local governments and funders to center equity and race in all policies, systems, and decisions. Here’s how we partnered with UCS of Johnson County to advance anti-racism.
Julie Brewer, UCS of Johnson County:
Our core work is in education and advocacy around issues that impact the health and wellbeing of our community, convening and planning and targeted resource allocation. It’s that education and advocacy and research that we do that informs us of current and emerging issues and where gaps are and allows us to have that foundation to identify some of those gaps and then bring folks around a common table and create that space to plan and to implement on how we want to respond as a community to those gaps.
McClain Bryant Macklin, Health Forward Foundation:
So Health Forward has centered our work around four purpose areas, one of which is our Platform area in which we intend to pursue race equity in all policy. And so in order to begin that work within our municipalities and amongst our policymakers, it’s essential for them to have an anti-racist mindset, understand the history of racism in this country so that they can look at policymaking through an anti-racist lens.
One of the goals of what we felt we could do with this work was called Racial Equity and Inclusion Communities. It was really thinking about using our planning and facilitation expertise and reaching out to other local partners and experts to come along — jurisdictions, in this case. We identified cities in our county as being open to system change. And if you’re talking about system change, oftentimes you’re talking about policy change, and if you’re thinking about where policies hit boots on the ground, that’s what’s going on in our cities.
Kathryn Evans, UCS of Johnson County:
We created this program with a lot of inspiration from other models and other efforts that were happening and have been happening across the country in the public administration context, but we really created something completely new.
And so having a partner like UCS that knows the Johnson County community well, that has the trust of residents and policy makers and decision makers within different organizations and different power structures within the community was helpful to advance this narrative and this necessary work. Because having that trust, they’re better able to deliver that message and to relay the importance of a race equity journey amongst the municipalities.
I’m very impressed with the work that we’ve done, and I believe that what we’ve learned and the learning that we’ve shared with the Health Forward Foundation is actually going to be extremely impactful in the way that racial equity systems change strategy is distributed throughout our region. And I’m really looking forward to seeing how what we learned in the pilot gets replicated or modified and improved in other places.
We are fully supporting UCS in the next iteration and bringing some additional counties and cities into the fray as well as supportive of those that started the program and continuing the work and working their action plans. But we are working with other municipalities as well, in their race equity journeys. We helped the city of Kansas City, Missouri, establish their Office of Race Equity, and we’re in conversations with other municipalities in our service area about how we can uniquely support them too, knowing that the work will look different depending on the jurisdiction.
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