What is the role of place-based programs in supporting community partners during the pandemic? How can the field of community health more effectively advance racial justice? And simply, what’s next? These are questions that are top of mind for many practitioners in the field of community health – and in particular for leaders in public health.
For us at The BUILD Health Challenge® (BUILD), we spent much of last year talking with awardees, partners, and peers to understand how they were thinking about, and taking action on, these considerations. With the help of our partners at Equal Measure we documented our exploration and tried to capture insights shared by others in order to highlight trends and changes in community health. We recently published a summary of our findings in a new piece titled, “Centering Equity in Community Health Partnerships” appearing in the May/June 2022 edition of the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice (JPHMP).
Conversations helped to show that the field has increasingly embraced 4 approaches critical to community health:
- Pursuing systems change;
- Addressing upstream factors;
- Building effective and sustainable cross-sector partnerships; and
- Centering equity.
In this piece, we also highlight the critical role public health leaders and agencies can play in this process of centering equity. We heard from many who we spoke with that in order to do so, they must first engage in deep reflections on the power and privilege inherent in their roles and organizations. As one interviewee in public health quoted in BUILD’s field trends report said, “You cannot do equity for real if you are not in a relationship with community [and] with a balance of power.”
With this in mind, we crafted 3 reflections questions that we hope, along with the Field Trends report, can offer readers some degree of clarity when considering centering equity in one’s efforts to improve community health.
- In what ways is your partnership holding power? How can you share or build power with those most affected by issues in your community?
- What resources and time do you need to ensure all partners understand issues of racism, inequity, and power imbalance—and their implications for your efforts?
- What is being left unspoken or unaccounted for in your conversations about equity?
As these questions and considerations illustrate, centering equity is an ongoing and evolving process for public health agencies, as well as all leaders and organizations across sectors. It is an opportunity for growth, with more fulfilling partnerships within reach for those who make the effort.