In working with our partners to develop their Transformation Plans, many indicated a need for support to advance health equity. SWACH developed a structure for a peer-learning collaborative which would allow partners to work together with each other and experts to provide a common language to discuss equity, complete an equity assessment and create an equity plan for their organization.
In July 2019 SWACH launched the Equity Collaborative composed of SWACH and 14 organizational partners—including both clinical providers and community serving organizations. Two representatives from each organization participate in monthly meetings to support the equity assessment process, and the implementation of a health equity plan. Additionally, participants use the online Learning Community through the WA Portal to exchange ideas, ask questions, and share articles and other resources.
The Equity Collaborative began by creating a shared language around the definition of health equity: Health equity means that all people have access to a healthy environment, community, and relationship with local institutions and service providers. Additionally, focusing on race provides an opportunity to develop a transferable lens that allows us to reveal historical—structural and systemic—inequities. The aim of the Equity Collaborative is to create both institutional and structural change. This means improving access to care and services for populations negatively affected by the current system, AND by improving relationships among these populations and the institutions and organizations that serve them.
The purpose of the equity assessment is to engage staff, including executive leadership, to review organizational practices through an equity lens to help determine areas to improve. Equity Collaborative participants discussed barriers and challenges to completing the assessment, but also shared successes – overall there is tremendous support for the assessments, and the equity plans which come next.
By the end of 2019, all participating partner organizations had completed and equity assessment and have committed to continuing participation in the collaborative in 2020. Participants are currently using assessment results to inform an equity aim statement, workplan, and reporting to advance that vision.
With an emphasis on systems change, participating organizations focus their equity plans on sustainable and structural change. Some are working on advancing equity through policy change, others organizations are working together to develop strategies for recruiting and retaining staff of color, still others are establishing level-setting programs to develop consistency in understanding (from front-line staff to board level) of the organization’s approach to advancing health and racial equity.
We are excited about the progress the Equity Collaborative and the individual participants have made thus far, and look forward to seeing the positive impact this work will have on our community once fully implemented.