Online Program

Addressing environmental justice and health inequities: A racial justice approach using an equity and empowerment lens

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Benjamin Duncan, BS, Environmental Science, Health Equity Initiative, Multnomah County Health Department, Portland, OR
Sonali Balajee, MS, Office of Diversity and Equity, Multnomah County, Portland, OR
Institutionalizing equity and racial justice within Public Health organizations requires that we recognize how our policies, programs and practices can perpetuate differential outcomes for populations. Multnomah County developed an Equity and Empowerment Lens to assist and empower decision-makers to conduct analyses of organizational development, resource allocation, decision-making and meaningful involvement. The lens, grounded in values of racial, social, and environmental justice, is a set of nine questions, accompanying education materials, and tools designed to provide information needed for discussion, planning and decision-making that will lead to more equitable policies and programs.

Using the Equity and Empowerment Lens increases the capacity of Public Health Departments and other organizations in identifying and eliminating the root causes of racial and ethnic health disparities by focusing on quality improvement internally and externally, increasing awareness of the roles that both individuals and organizations play in achieving equity, accurately assessing client needs to improve satisfaction and service delivery, identifying opportunities to influence operational processes and decisions, and improving our ability in Public Health to explain what we do and the value of our services to clients and community members.

This session will walk participants through the background and history (the journey) of Multnomah County in developing the lens in response to the need for systemic, community-led change towards equity particularly in racial and ethnic communities, and provide examples of how the Lens has been applied in various settings within a local Public Health Department. We will discuss what conditions create the opportunity for movement around addressing inequity, and identify some of the challenges and lessons learned through the five years of doing this work in order for other jurisdictions to learn from, adapt and apply similar models to improve the health of our communities, and to reduce racial and ethnic health inequities.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Program planning
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Discuss and describe how an Equity and Empowerment Lens (racial justice focus) can benefit both Governmental Public Health and Community Based Organizations in addressing Environmental Justice and Health Inequities by analyzing and understanding benefits and burdens, and by assuring equity is part of all programs, practices and policies.

Keyword(s): Health Disparities, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a primary partner in the development of the Equity and Empowerment Lens and founding Board member of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, an organization focusing on organizing low income, communities of color around issues of Environmental Justice. Previous work in Environmental Health allowed me to apply Environmental Justice principles and practices in programmatic and policy work for almost 10 years focusing on policy around asthma, housing and air quality.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.