Here to Strengthen Equity Outcomes
Greetings Get Health SMC Partners and Friends!
To begin this article, as a newcomer to the Health Policy and Planning team, I want to first acknowledge and congratulate you on the considered vision you brought forth for creating a more healthy and equitable community through the principles highlighted in your Strategic Plan! The inequities laid bare over the past year’s experience with and ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated your collective foresight in building a local collaborative committed to our community’s health and ready to act now in meeting the urgent needs demanded in this critical moment.
I began my position as the Health Equity Management Analyst just over one month ago. Over the last fourteen years, I have worked in San Mateo County’s STD/HIV Prevention unit leading outreach, education, testing and linkage to care for disparately impacted communities. The Management Analyst position was created to work closely with the, also new position, Public Health Equity Officer to strengthen equity outcomes in the COVID-19 pandemic. Grateful that vaccines have been approved and are now being distributed, our primary focus is the vital work of imbedding equity into the vaccination plan and implementation—with particular attention to engaging community stakeholders in developing messages for and conducting outreach to the most impacted communities.
I began my professional career over 25 years ago as a junior high school teacher—which I loved! Foregrounding that early work in Washington, DC, was my personal engagement as an activist and caregiver in the early days of the HIV/AIDS global epidemic. We were then, sadly, faced with so many of the common systemic barriers and disparities still faced by so many of our communities today during this once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. We were also, then, blessed with a collective of passionate and committed individuals, communities, and leaders who knew that something different was required of us in our efforts to comfort and heal back to wholeness our suffering and dying loved ones. What we summoned then to fight against the racism and bigotry that remain the root causes of the structural barriers we still experience led us to create better, more trusted, and more caring relationships between each other—more authentic connections that are available to us now in this difficult yet hopeful moment.
I believe that the moment we now face, while categorically one of the most devastating periods in my own lifetime, is teeming with opportunities for us to build upon the foundational work you’ve engaged in over recent years—that is, in fact, clearly articulated in your 10 Key Components for Building Healthy, Equitable Communities. This offers us a continued framework to build safe, healthy, and prosperous communities that are free of our current pandemic and one that can manifest an ‘after-times’ where we all have what we need to live long and healthy lives.
In the words of one whom I claim as my ancestral father, James Baldwin, “There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.”