Coming together to create change
Making a commitment to advance health equity has never been more critical than it is today. Being able to show action is even more important. This can be daunting work and it is challenging to know where to start and how to sustain progress over time. However, in coming together as a network of change agents, we get stronger, create greater impact and momentum, and are supported in our efforts to challenge the status quo and remove barriers that keep people in this country from good health. In other words, “We heal, not in isolation, but in togetherness.” S. Kelley Harrell
Leading from the heart
At the center of this quest to create health equity and racial healing is our human desire to connect and the ability to lead from within, from our hearts. This notion of leading with our hearts is the basis for Dr. Gail Christopher’s, Executive Director of the National Collaborative of Health Equity, Racial Healing Rx training and principles. The Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) recently convened its member executive leaders in a forum to learn from Dr. Christopher and to discuss the role of health collaboratives in spearheading regional efforts to create change. While NRHI members have largely focused on improving healthcare costs, quality, and experience, those efforts cannot be fully realized without addressing underlying social, structural, and political determinants of health which shape the major inequities that our country currently faces. Not only do NRHI members have a vested interest in advancing health equity, but they are also expert in convening and connecting diverse community leaders to tackle challenging issues. Most importantly, they care deeply for the people in the communities and regions they serve.
The role of regional health improvement collaboratives in health equity work
While accelerating their core mission, regional health improvement collaboratives (RHICs) have many opportunities to support the advancement of health equity and to serve as a bridge between healthcare, public health, and community organizations in this effort. When NRHI member executive leaders came together and were asked to consider how RHICs could increase impact and identify immediate opportunities, clear routes emerged:
Melinda Gates captures the essence of the above actions in an excerpt from her book Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, “Diversity is the best way to defend equality. If people from diverse groups are not making those decisions, the burdens and benefits of society will be divided unequally and unfairly — with the people writing the rules ensuring themselves a greater share of the benefits and a lesser share of the burdens of any society. If you are not brought in, you get sold out.”
Strengthening our commitments and actions together
Although NRHI and its members are at different stages in their health equity journey, many have made it a foundational component of their work for many years. The list of opportunities above may be standard protocol to some organizations while others may consider these new ideas and even wonder how they could make such efforts possible. This is the power and value of a network like NRHI, in coming together we can learn, support glide paths, new ways of thinking, and creativity, and remind ourselves and each other that this work first comes from the heart. Together we can create lasting change.