The term health equity means that everyone has a fair opportunity to live a long and healthy life. It’s one of the guiding principles of the Bold Goals Coalition. So how can we achieve health equity in Central Alabama? Through the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership, the Advancing Health Equity Priority Group has developed six guiding principles to help us get there. We invite you to consider how these principles might inform your work in the community.
- Involve people who are negatively impacted by health disparities in development, implementation and evaluation. The most effective programs include input from the people themselves, who have a greater presence of disease, poorer health outcomes and/or less access to healthcare (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities, older adults, lower socioeconomic status, physical or mental disability, geographic location). Priority populations, such as communities of color, youth, immigrants and males, are often excluded from the conversations and decisions about the factors that most impact their health. Actively engaging the communities most affected is essential.
- Ensure objectives target people and communities negatively impacted by health disparities. Program objectives are most effective when they explicitly state that their target population includes people who are negatively impacted by health disparities. Visual and experiential data (e.g., mapping, digital storytelling) can provide vivid examples of the real experiences of communities affected by health inequities. See great examples for Jefferson County here. Cost data can also be used to reveal the significant financial implications of existing inequities.
- Value both community and technical expertise. Be sure to respect and incorporate the expertise and perspective of community members as well as the technical knowledge provided by health experts. Many communities benefit from engaging individuals and organizations with technical expertise in certain health issues. Such expertise can provide lessons learned from initiatives in other settings, as well as guidance to avoid unnecessary barriers in implementation. It is critical, however, that the expertise and perspective of community members — those ultimately impacted by any initiative — also be respected and valued along with the technical expertise.
- Support and build community capacity to act. Build on the capacity of community members by increasing their awareness of health inequities. “Community capacity” refers to the people, resources, infrastructures, relationships and operations that enable a community to create change. Community members are vital assets for broader community improvements, and are most likely to have a long-term interest in the community’s well-being.
- Leverage opportunities to advance health equity. Health equity work is more effective when connected to efforts led by organizations, groups and/or individuals with complementary goals. By aligning efforts and working to change the environments, policies and institutions that most touch our lives — from our neighborhoods and workplaces to our childcare centers and schools — community cooperation is a necessary component for the reduction and long-term elimination of inequities. (Adapted from Convergence Partnership)
- Ensure health equity messages are appropriate and widely disseminated. Consider the needs, assets and priority issues of community members and stakeholders prior to developing messaging. It is important that everyone from staff and community members to partners and stakeholders have a shared understanding of the meaning of health equity and its related goals. A shared understanding needs to be developed with a proper understanding of the community context and culture. Without this, messages around health equity can go unnoticed or lead to unfavorable actions.
This article is adapted from the document Principles for Advancing Health Equity produced by the Health Action Partnership of Jefferson County. Most of the text in this article is taken verbatim from that document. We encourage you to explore the original document for a more in-depth understanding of these principles.
The Bold Goals Coalition is 200 organizations solving big community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas.