“What would it look like if equity was the starting point for decision making?”
—Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
Asking the right questions is the first step to taking action for meaningful change. Under Dr. Ehlinger’s leadership, the Minnesota Department of Health has developed a culture that values — and encourages — asking questions like, “What would it look like if equity was the starting point for decision making?”
As president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Ehlinger brings such questions to his peers around the nation with the 2016 President Challenge — a bold call to action to advance health equity and optimal health for all. The “Triple Aim of Health Equity,” is a multi-pronged approach to improve health equity by:
- Expanding our understanding of what creates health
- Implementing a Health in All Policies approach with health equity as the goal
- Strengthening the capacity of communities to create their own healthy future
So, how can communities, states, and national partners take part in this President’s Challenge?
First, improving health equity is not a job for one person or one organization: it requires multi-sector partnerships and will benefit from strong support and coordination. For their part, ASTHO recently convened a panel of stakeholders from state and territorial health organizations, federal agencies, nonprofits, foundations, academia, and other organizations, to operationalize the Triple Aim.
APA participated in the strategic mapping session in May, representing planners in the discussion. Through a series of facilitated exercises, the group developed a set of initial outcomes that would demonstrate effective collaboration around the Triple Aim, and associated action steps to achieve those goals.
One key takeaway from the meeting is the importance of actors working at all levels to improve health equity. Another takeaway is the importance of sharing data across sectors to better understand health equity and measure progress over time. Planners can share land use, demographic, and economic data, and can also incorporate public health and equity data into their systems. However, data is not the “silver bullet,” and complementary strategies are necessary to employ the Triple Aim approach.
Some planners are already addressing health equity challenges in their own communities, while others are just beginning to consider the benefits. APA’s Peer Learning Network — an outcome of the our Plan4Health project — is a resource center of best practices and tools that real planners and public health professionals are already using to build healthy, active communities.
We encourage you to read Ehlinger’s commentary article and explore and add your own stories to the Peer Learning Network.
What will your community look like when equity is the starting point for decision making?