Michigan and World Wide

Championing Health Equity

Lately, there’s a been a lot of buzz around the term “health equity” and I’ve been asked countless times by folks working at various organizations and agencies how an individual can advance health equity when they are only one person working in a larger (often bureaucratic) system or institution. Often times my response to those questions is that large scale change starts with individuals like you.

Yes, it does. As cliche as it may sound – change starts with you. Below are 4 steps you can take advance health equity within the system you’re working in or with.

1. Defining Health Equity: Sometimes when we talk about health equity, we use jargon or facts that don’t resonate with our audience. Your first step is developing a simple definition of health equity. Personally, I think the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has done a great job trying to simplify what health equity means. However, I encourage you to think about what health equity means to YOU so when you’re sharing it with others, it is authentic to your values.

“Health equity is when all people, regardless of who they are or what they believe, have the opportunity to attain their full health potential. Achieving health equity requires valuing all people equally with focused and ongoing efforts to address inequalities.” – CDPHE

2. Reactions to Health Equity: Often times we talk about health equity within a bubble of health equity champions. Step 2 is reaching out to other folks within your organization to get  a better sense and understanding of their perceptions, definitions, and reactions to health equity. What does it mean to them? How do they see if reflected in their work, if at all? This isn’t a time to push or educate about health equity – but to listen to how it resonates with others. This will help inform how you can better engage with and reach out to people outside of the health equity champion bubble.

3. Meet People Where they Are: As mentioned in Step 2, not everyone will be a champion for health equity and that’s okay. What you can do is not make assumptions about why and rather, try to understand why. Perhaps the narratives folks have already heard about health equity, don’t feel relevant to them or they don’t see how health equity impacts them too. Also, let’s face it – we’ve all have had challenges with the health care system at some point. Help to refocus health equity not on an “us verse them” but from a place that health equity benefits everyone, regardless of who they are or the experiences they have had by making a connection to the universal values that most of us share.

4. Making a Personal Connection: Story-telling is a uniquely powerful way to make a connection with a person on a complex topic like health equity. What’s your story and connection to health equity? Work on developing that story in a simple and succinct manner and share that story with others – whether it’s through one-on-one conversations, in staff meetings, or as a keynote speaker. Personalize why health equity matters.

These are just a few tips on advancing health equity in your work and we’re open to hearing more ways you have worked to center and champion health equity in your workplace and with communities.

If you want to learn more about health equity and or developing your personal story related to health equity, book a workshop with us now.


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