Advancing Health Equity and Racial Justice: Conversations and Case Studies from the Intersections Initiative
“What if we were to ask ourselves not only ‘what did we do?’ in any given initiative or project, but more importantly, ‘what did we build?’? We might transform the way we look and invest in our communities.” – Jason Lacsamana, Director of Programs and Partnerships, St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund.
Picking up on the morning’s “How Good Data Can Advance Equity” session’s call to action to use data for equity-centered policy and power change, the late morning speakers shared candid reflections on their Intersections Initiative experience and what they were able to build during the four-year project.
The Intersections Initiative, funded by the St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund and co-designed with Prevention Institute, provided four years of flexible funding and technical assistance to community-based organizations and coalitions exploring the roles healthcare and health system partners can play in upstream community-level prevention efforts. Intersections supported partnerships in seven California communities served by Providence-St. Joseph Health System hospitals, with three based in Orange County, to advance health equity by addressing the community conditions that shape health, safety, and wellbeing.
Joining Jason on the panel were Cesar Covarrubias (Executive Director, The Kennedy Commission), Maritza Bermudez (Parent Leader and Community Organizer, Orange County Congregation Community Organization), and Christy Cornwall (Director of Community Health Investment, Providence Mission Hospital), with Sandra Viera (Associate Program Director, Prevention Institute) as moderator. The session’s conversation focused on surfacing the realities of upstream, health equity efforts:
- Policy change is key in addressing root causes of inequities: while there are urgent, pressing needs to support in our communities, focusing on policy, resource distribution, and systems change remains important. Four years is often not long enough to see policy change and ensure proper implementation, but it can serve as one big step in the right direction to reduce the need for services in the first place. Efforts in Anaheim and Central Orange County’s Intersections sites targeted education and housing policy to support immediate needs as well as long term shifts.
- Partnerships are critical: policy change is hard to make happen in a few years but partnerships between non-profits, advocates, resident leaders, healthcare actors, and philanthropy can be built to continue the hard work of system transformation. For Intersections communities, the tables of partners assembled and grounded in the big, audacious goals of advancing health equity and racial justice are investments in sustainability.
- Progress isn’t linear: “three steps forward and two steps back is still progress”. This work is complex and ever-changing, and initiative partners must remain flexible and agile to face challenges. Funders can support this by working alongside non-profit partners in adapting plans and revisiting what success looks like. Asking the key question “what are we building?” can help guide all towards new ways of community transformation.
The work of the Intersections sites in Anaheim, Central Orange County, and South County continue on, including as part of the Equity in Orange County Initiative launching later this year. Learn more about the Intersections Initiative communities, the St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund, or Prevention Institute or contacting Sandra Viera via email (email@example.com).