Eureka Coalition, Intersections Initiative

Eureka Coalition, Prevention Institute, Intersections Initiative (Watch Video)

Health Equity and Strengthening Community Power

For several years, there has been increased awareness of racial and health equity, prompting public health researchers, practitioners, and funders to acknowledge that merely addressing conditions is inadequate. In response, there is a call to prioritize tackling the structural causes and finding corresponding solutions to fundamental inequities. Health equity necessitates equal valuation of all individuals and populations, acknowledgment and address of historical injustices, and allocation of resources based on necessity.

At SJF, we know that all individuals must be healthy for communities to thrive. However, the increased attention and discussion surrounding racial and health equity and the social determinants of health (SDOH) also creates confusion. An article published by The Milbank Quarterly, “Keeping It Political and Powerful: Defining the Structural Determinants of Health,” details how this confusion leads to missed opportunities. The article defines equity and SDOH and establishes a connection between the two and community power to deepen comprehension of these concepts.

Understanding power is crucial when discussing the factors that shape individual and community health. Power creates and enforces the rules that govern society, and for equity to exist, power dynamics must shift to an equitable state. Building community power allows us to intervene in longstanding patterns of advantages and disadvantages. Addressing public health crises while tackling underlying power imbalances requires a thoughtful, deliberate approach. Current public health practices should empower communities and pave the way for future interventions that can further shift the balance of power.

Recognition and understanding of how the power imbalance affects SDOH is just one part of the equity equation. Strategic action must follow. Such action includes mobilizing community leaders and other individuals to join and improve distressed local and neighborhood conditions. Disrupting harmful structural practices allows grassroots communities to self-identify, advocate, implement, and oversee their change agenda through building relationships, establishing trust, and organizing individuals for the greatest impact.

Community power-building is a long-term investment that requires dedicated time for healing, trust-building, and navigating highly complex and bureaucratic systems with reinforced inequities. SJF is dedicated to action and moving toward a transformative journey for sustained community social, economic, and political action through power building.

We encourage those who want to read deeper on this topic to check out these articles – What Is Health Justice? (LF Wiley, R Yearby, BR Clark, and S Mohapatra, J Law Med Ethics, 2022) and Building Bridges: The Strategic Imperative for Advancing Health Equity and Racial Justice (Manal J. Aboelata, Roxan Rivas, La’Quana Williams, and Elva Yañez, Prevention Institute, 2020). And if you haven’t already, consider adding your name to our Rooted in Love email list to have stories from our power-building partners delivered monthly to your inbox.