Impact Brief – June 2021
This special edition of the CEO Message is brought to you by NACDD’s Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) Alliance:
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 and amid national social demonstrations for racial justice, NACDD released a statement declaring racism a public health crisis.
Since that declaration, NACDD has continued work toward becoming an anti-racist organization. Last summer, a group of NACDD staff and consultants proposed to CEO John W. Robitscher the formation of what has become the organization’s Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) Alliance. The Alliance’s steering committee currently focuses on promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion within NACDD’s internal culture and practices. The Alliance also is committed to sharing NACDD’s evolution with our Membership, so that lessons learned during this process can be disseminated with our public health workforce. The REDI Alliance steering committee studied the “Awake to Woke to Work” publication and mapped NACDD’s organization to the publication’s framework to identify opportunities for change. The steering committee also met with experts to develop a process of building a race equity culture. (Equity in the Center defines a race equity culture as “one focused on proactive counteraction of social inequities inside and outside of its organization.”)
Immediate action took place in the form of a staff town hall in the summer of 2020 during protests in Atlanta. Staff received time off to reflect, rest, and recover from the emotional journey of public events. The Association also closed its offices in observance of Juneteenth, making it a standing organizational holiday. NACDD’s Culture Club shared a statement and resources on the history of Juneteenth and continued to provide opportunities to celebrate and learn about diversity during what continued to be a difficult year for many Americans of color and their allies.
As our nation navigated further systemic oppression, racist violence, and ultimately the white supremacist-led insurrection at the Capitol, NACDD offered staff continued mental health days and group discussions to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about current events.
In March of 2021, the REDI Alliance launched a book club for staff and consultants. Participants received a copy of the book “The Color of Law” to read and discuss in weekly small group meetings. The book club culminated with a webinar featuring the author of “The Color of Law,” Richard Rothstein, and attended by staff, consultants, NACDD Members, and the public. This summer, book club participants are discussing the NACDD Health Equity Council’s “Race Toward Health” podcast series. The podcast examines various topics on achieving health equity and provides concrete suggestions to advance equity in organizations and communities.
As the REDI Alliance and NACDD’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization passes the one-year mark, we are reminded that this work only progresses; it never finishes. We continue to urge and commend legislative action to declare racism a public health crisis, celebrate diverse leadership, and to stand against institutional racism and racist violence. We look forward to sharing our updates with you as we continue learning and growing together.
Other actions taken by NACDD during the past year:
- The Association made advancing racial equity a focus in its 2021-2022 Strategic Plan.
- We offered mini-grants (distributed at up to $25,000 each) to support states in advancing racial and health equity within their institutions.
- As the COVID-19 pandemic further revealed alarming U.S. health, social, and economic racial inequities, NACDD urged governments and funders to consider racism and racist violence as a public health crisis in the United States.
- In September 2020, NACDD sponsored “Arrested Mobility: Exploring the Adverse Social, Political, Economic & Health Outcomes of Over-Policing Black Mobility in the U.S.” This virtual event included a keynote presentation by Charles T. Brown and a panel discussion featuring Black thought leaders in community and transportation planning.
- Early in 2021, NACDD’s Board President, Dr. Susan Kansagra, announced her challenge for Chronic Disease Directors to center anti-racist policies within core program work.
- NACDD’s annual Program Success Showcase included a panel discussion, “How State Health Departments Can Help Build Trust in Public Health and Promote Health Equity During COVID and Beyond.”