Taking Action to Advance Racial Equity: Growing Our Field
for a Healthier, More Resilient, and Just Future
Persistent health inequities have had devastating effects in our society, especially among Latinx, Black, and Native American/Indigenous communities. Addressing the root causes of these disparities is necessary to make progress as a country and as a field of public health.
Closing racial disparities and advancing health equity through chronic disease programs has long been a focus of our Association and is centered in our 2021-2022 Strategic Plan.
We continue to call upon public health organizations to commit to addressing racism as a public health issue and to center anti-racism in its approaches. We have remained committed in our work with our Members to improve State and Territorial Health Departments’ understanding of how to advance anti-racism as a core component of achieving health equity in our chronic disease programming.
Our FY 2021 Board President’s Challenge called upon state chronic disease programs to redouble their efforts to advance racial equity. We provided Chronic Disease Directors with a guideline, “Action Steps to Advance Racial Equity as a Core Component of State Chronic Disease Programs,” with specific examples and activities to inform three areas of public health activity:
- Increase staff knowledge about racial equity/racial justice and its connection to health outcomes in professional development,
- Implement actions based on data related to racial inequities and chronic disease outcomes, and
- Assess organizational policies and procedures using a race equity framework.
Twenty-six states signed on for the challenge, including:
- Massachusetts, which integrated their unit’s work on standardizing racial equity into the hiring process and expanded this across their department.
- South Dakota, which established a cultural competency work group and is in the process of developing an action plan.
- Alaska started an organizational self-assessment around health equity and administered an online survey to all staff and some partners using the NACDD State Health Department Organizational Self-Assessment for Achieving Health Equity toolkit. They also hosted a well-attended land acknowledgement workshop for staff.
Additional information about states’ commitments to health equity, as well as the Association’s other health and racial equity work, is available at chronicdisease.org/page/healthequityprograms.
Finally, as you will read in our Annual Report, our work to be anti-racist also has influenced our approaches to our programming as well as our internal, organizational activities. Together, we are growing, learning, and doing what we ask from others.
Confronting racism is a perennial call to action. It does not end after a news cycle concludes, but is a steady, intentional effort that involves some level of personal introspection and development. We must rise to these challenges because everyone in America should have the chance to live a healthy life, regardless of who they are, how they came here, or what languages they speak.
We will continue to take action to advance racial equity so that we can grow our field for a healthier, more resilient, and just future.
John Robitscher, CEO
Susan Kansagra, FY 2021 Board President