The Path to Equitable Health Outcomes
Morgan Roberts, Intern
I recently joined the 1000 Feathers team and was given the opportunity to listen to 1000 Feathers president Forrest Alton talk about equity in the healthcare system. This is not something that I would have claimed to know much about, but after hearing his speech, I believe it is a conversation that we all should have.
“Talking about equity and health equity and reducing health disparities, requires us to get our hands dirty and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
That was how Forrest dove into his talk at the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy in January.
Equity is a multi-faceted, messy issue that stems from generations of institutional, systemic barriers put in place to separate people by race, class, or gender. So how can we do a better job of addressing health equity?
Here are four tips that Forrest gave during his speech:
1. Acknowledge the Challenge
“We have to acknowledge that health disparities and inequities are not the result of (s)he made good decisions, and (s)he didn’t.”
It’s so much more complicated than that! To get a better understanding, we must dive deep into existing data, monitor history and trends, and explore as much as we can. This requires us to be life-long learners, questioning everything and understanding the journey that people have to go through. We need to recognize the role that we can, and should play in this journey.
2. Get Proximate
“If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world” –Bryan Stevenson (colleague and friend of Forrest)
Get close, get out of the classroom. Talk to people. Learn their stories, find out what the challenges are right from the source. This might mean holding community forums, interviews, focus groups, or town hall meetings. It might just mean getting out from behind your desk and talking with people. You have to be willing to get proximate and get your hands dirty to get the results you seek. It is important to invite the people who are suffering the most into the conversations about solutions.
3, Keep Learning
“I left Coastal Carolina with my undergraduate degree and my chest puffed out, confident that I knew everything. I left my first job in Georgetown, South Carolina three years later very sure that I knew nothing.”
We are life-long learners–this has to be true. Over time we have learned that sometimes, something that seems like it’s helping can actually cause a bigger gap of disparity to grow. We cannot just put forth a solution and move on. We must always be learning–from the past, from our mistakes, from others. Learning how to do things better, how to fix the mistakes, and how to improve. We can always do better.
4. Accelerate Diversification
“Spend time with people who don’t think like you, look like you, and act like you–that is the only path forward to solving issues around equity and diversity.”
You can’t solve every problem by yourself, but you can become a part of a community, part of a different group of people at the table who are having conversations about these issues. Tackling the real issues that people in communities are facing isn’t something that should be done alone. Reach out, partner, engage, build a bigger tent.
To listen to the full speech and learn more about equity in healthcare, click here.