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Beyond the Hospital Walls: Organizations Can Champion Health Equity Without Providing Medical Care

When we at Communication and Culture, LLC talk about health equity, the immediate responses we get often focus on hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers. Achieving true health equity involves much more than just medical care. Tech companies, community-based organizations, schools, all have the power to impact community health positively.

Denise Johnson, MD, FACOG, FACHE notes, "While serving as Physician General of Pennsylvania, I saw that collaboration with diverse organizations was essential to impact community health." Donna Oti, Ph.D. adds, "During my research on clinical trial hesitancy, participants often shared that they sought health information from non-traditional sources like religious, social, and educational institutions."

Let's explore how organizations can be a catalyst for meaningful change.

The Bigger Picture: Understanding Social Determinants of Health

Before we dive into actionable steps, let's expand our understanding of health. It’s not just what happens inside a medical facility; it’s a complex interplay of factors known as Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). These include education, employment, housing, and social support, among others. These elements collectively shape the wellness of individuals and communities. They tell us that health equity isn’t just a medical issue; it's a social justice issue.

Partnerships That Make a Difference

Your organization can form powerful alliances with healthcare institutions and local agencies to address these social determinants. 

  • Tech Companies: How about developing an app that connects low-income families to affordable housing options or available job listings?
  • Schools:What if schools partnered with healthcare organizations to provide nutritious meals or mental health seminars for students?
  • Local Businesses: Could you offer apprenticeships or job training to people from marginalized communities?
  • Religious Organizations: Do you coordinate food drives, offer mental health support groups, or host free health screenings?

Leverage Your Resources

Your organization has resources that can directly or indirectly influence community health. 

  • Financial Capital:Invest in community projects aimed at uplifting marginalized groups. 
  • Human Resources:Employee volunteer programs can make a significant impact on local communities. 
  • Expertise: Offer pro bono services that can help community organizations achieve their objectives more efficiently.

Advocate for Policy Change

Influence doesn't stop at the doors of your organization. Advocate for policies that support health equity.

  • Support Legislation:Back policies that aim to close the gap in access to healthcare or that address the social determinants affecting community health.
  • Public Awareness:Use your organization’s platform to raise awareness about health equity issues. 

Education and Awareness

Don't underestimate the power of information. Educational programs or workshops can have a profound impact.

  • Seminars/Webinars:Host educational events that tackle topics related to health equity. 
  • Social Media Campaigns: Utilize your digital reach to disseminate crucial information about health and wellness.

Measure, Assess, and Adapt

The journey towards health equity is a continuous process. Monitor the impact of your initiatives and be prepared to adapt your strategies.

Time to Act: Be the Change You Want to See

Health equity is not an isolated problem solved only by healthcare providers; it's a collective responsibility. Your organization has the resources, influence, and potential to make a lasting impact. Start the dialogue, form partnerships, leverage your resources, and advocate for change. Your actions, however small they may seem, can contribute to a ripple effect of positive transformations within your community and beyond. 

So, the question is not whether you can impact health equity, but how soon you’re going to start. The time for change is now!