Equity At The Core
Health inequities are differences in health that are unnecessary, avoidable and considered unfair and unjust. They are rooted in historic social injustices that make some population groups more vulnerable to poor health than other groups.
In Palm Beach County, health inequities were evident when comparing statistics in black neighborhoods with white neighborhoods. For example, an African-American neighborhood in West Palm Beach has an average life expectancy of 67 years while a white population residing near the beach in Jupiter has a life expectancy of 90 years.
As the foundation immersed itself in the work around the social determinants of health, it became apparent that racial disparities and inequities in all aspects of life needed to be addressed head-on. Simply addressing racism wouldn’t be enough. The foundation needed to develop the capacity to deeply understand racism in its institutional and structural forms and how it affected each community.
The Racial Equity Institute (REI) of Greensboro, NC proved to be a game-changer for the foundation and the Healthier Together communities. Implementing two-day workshops and sponsoring residents to participate alongside the foundation and its partners helped to develop a shared language and a clearer understanding of how institutions and systems produce unjust and inequitable outcomes, making them better equipped to begin to work for change.
In addition to the work at a community level, we realized we had to take a careful look at all aspects of our work and activities with an equity lens. First steps included convening an ad hoc equity committee comprised of board members, staff and community members to help the foundation formalize its commitment to health equity. Believing that health equity means effectively removing barriers, engaging the voice of the community and working together to promote better health, the group crafted an equity statement to guide the foundation’s work.