There's no reason why someone's health should be determined by their zip code – but it is. Historical social injustices have led to higher rates of poverty, segregation, unsafe neighborhoods, and poor education outcomes for certain populations. As a result, people of color and those experiencing poverty have lower life expectancies, poorer birth outcomes, and higher risk for chronic diseases.
But we know that everyone deserves an equal chance to be healthy and thrive.
Why It Matters
In Oregon, as well as across the nation, communities of color and low-income communities have worse overall health outcomes than almost every other group. These health inequities are rooted in social injustices that make some population groups more vulnerable to poor health than others. We know, for example, that too many people lack access to nutritious food, sidewalks and parks, smoke-free air and other healthy options. This is particularly true for African Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Native Americans, low-income individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, and other underserved populations. As a result, these communities suffer from chronic diseases at much higher rates than the rest of the population.
At Upstream Public Health, we are working to ensure every Oregonian has the chance to achieve their full health potential. We believe that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position, race, ability or any other socially determined circumstance. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the ultimate elimination of health and health care disparities.
What We’re Doing
Health equity is a priority in all the work we do. We continually work to improve our understanding of how social injustices, including racism, impact health. Below are projects where health equity is the primary focus.
The HOPE Coalition
Upstream Public Health is one of six steering committee members of the Healthy Oregon Partnerships for Equity (HOPE) Coalition. The HOPE Coalition is a regional partnership of communities of color, health advocates, and policy-makers working together to create and implement a five year plan to increase health equity. For the community, by the community, the coalition seeks to engage on-the-ground partners and people in Clackamas, Marion, Multnomah, and Washington Counties who face significant barriers to better health.
Equity Working Group
As a way to ensure that our work at Upstream is consistent with our health equity goals, we have created a Health Equity Working Group. The Health Equity Working Group is made of up staff and board members working to:
- Increase staff and board capacity to intentionally address factors leading to disparities in health by applying a race equity lens to our policy and advocacy work
- Integrate race equity into our work by expanding partnerships with communities facing disparities in health
- Evaluate and improve the internal workings for our organization including outreach, recruitment, and opportunities for advancement
What You Can Do
Interested in learning more about ongoing ways to get involved in these issues? Contact Claudia, Upstream's Health Equity Coordinator.
Our Successes So Far
The HOPE Coalition
In June, the HOPE Coalition completed its first full year of outreach, engagement, and action. In order to surface the most pressing health equity issues in the region, the HOPE Coalition:
- Held four community forums to reach consensus on top issue priorities
- Reached out to over 100 organizations to participate in forums and other consensus-building processes
- Collected local, state, and nationwide health equity data and reviewed over 60 reports and studies
- Interviewed key stakeholders and performed health equity data and literature review of the four county region
The HOPE Coalition recently completed the first draft of its five year equity plan. The final version will beavailable in September 2012.
Equity Working Group
The Equity Working Group was formed in December 2011. To date, the Working Group has:
- Completed an internal race equity audit
- Hosted a race equity training for Upstream's board and staff
- Developed outreach goals for individual staff to enhance relationships with underserved communities in our region
- Hired a health equity intern to help reach our health equity goals
- Developed a race equity analysis tool