Jefferson County Health Action Partners Discuss Health Inequities

Under the direction of this year’s director Drew Langloh, President and CEO of United Way of Central Alabama, the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership hosted their annual Health Action Partnership Summit recently at the McWane Center. Each of the guest speakers Dr. Monica Baskin, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Shavon Arline-Bradley, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, Director of External Engagement, focused on this year’s theme, Health Equity.

Baskin presented facts and figures detailing health disparities and poverty throughout Jefferson County, which included access to food, infant mortality rates and life expectancy. Her message was simple.

“Commit to advancing health equity in Jefferson County,” said Baskin.

Baskin left the summit participants with several key principles in advancing health equity; involve people negatively impacted by health disparities in development, implementation, and evaluation, ensure objectives target people and communities negatively impacted by health disparities, value both community and technical expertise, support and build community capacity to act, leverage opportunities to advance health equity and ensure health equity messages are appropriate and widely disseminated.

Baskin’s final comments weren’t exactly her words as she borrowed them from Dr. James Rimmer, Director of Lakeshore Research Collaborate but found it appropriate for the summit.

“Knowledge is less important than commitment,” she said.

Bradley’s approach to health was quite different. She moved some of the attendees to tears on several occasions as she discussed this year’s focus Health Equity.

During Arline-Bradley’s 75-minute presentation, she focused on health equity through the lens of confronting poverty, racism, classism and discrimination as a means of creating a level playing field. “We arrive by looking at power structure, specifically prioritizing what problem areas or issue areas we want to address and bringing people that are marginalized to the table,” said Arline-Bradley.

While the discussion began with race and poverty and dealt with it throughout the presentation, Arline-Bradley left several key points to help move the conversation to a place of normalization.

The strategy included leveraging political pendulum shifts; taking a political assessment of your community; identifying champions that can accomplish things within their term limits; making your work bi-partisan, playing the economy builder card, making the case, communicating with the public, dollars do make sense, building coalitions not dependent on funding, opening dialogue with perceived enemies, gearing up government voice, finding new funding.

The Jefferson County Health Action Partnership is a coalition of nearly 100 organizations, including United Way of Central Alabama, committed to making Jefferson County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play.

As the partnership moves forward the goal of the coalition is broken down into the following priority groups; promoting healthy lifestyles, optimizing healthcare, built environment, transportation and safety and improving mental health.

These efforts are designed to support the work of the Bold Goals Coalition’s collaborative approach to ensuring all Central Alabama counties will be ranked by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in the top ten for health outcomes in Alabama by 2025.

United Way of Central Alabama Inc. supports health and human service programs and agencies that provide solutions for the most important needs in the community. Its business is to improve lives and community conditions by building and mobilizing resources.