LiveWell Kershaw addresses impact of racism on health equity
Promoting and addressing health equity has been a guiding principle of the LiveWell Kershaw (LWK) Coalition. Since 2017, its efforts have focused on health disparities in Kershaw County -- where the organization sees life expectancy for residents topping out at age 80 and a 10-year difference from one end of the county to the other.
“Most recently, we hosted a Poverty Simulation in January to shine a spotlight on the barriers people in our community face when trying to access needed care and resources. We also addressed how each of us play a role as gatekeepers within our sectors and systems,” LiveWell Coalition Director Kathryn Johnson said in a recent email to coalition members.
Johnson said that a survey following the simulation showed that 76 percent of participants were able to identify systemic barriers to access within their own organization.
“We recognize that individual implicit biases have the ability to shape organizational culture and the policies that perpetuate disparities,” Johnson continued, referring to both black and person of color (POC) communities. “Let us be clear. Racism is systemic and through our experiences and training from the Racial Equity Institute in 2018, our team has examined the historical evidence that racism has been embedded in the fabric of the Nation that we so love from its early beginnings.
“Racism has been and continues to be an ever-present threat to the public health of black and POC communities throughout the world. The data LWK used for our 2013 and 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment, along with our 2019 Community Health Improvement Plan substantiates this claim for our residents and echoes what is seen across our nation regarding poor health outcomes in our POC communities.”
LWK invited more than 200 individuals to join the Poverty Simulation in January. Of those invited, 52 people showed up to begin a generative conversation around implicit bias and organizational barriers to accessing care.
“We must continue this conversation,” Johnson urged. “As an All-America City, we can do better. Residents have already demonstrated our community as a model for the nation through peaceful protesting. Let’s move forward with continued action. We at LWK are dedicated to addressing health equity and stomping out implicit bias in our local organizations. And we can’t do it alone. That’s why we are deploying a survey with an opportunity for action.”
This survey can be accessed by coalition members and the general public at www.surveymonkey.com/r/lwk2020
Once the survey is complete, Johnson said, the LWK team will build a report with the responses and facilitate conversations with participants to determine actionable next steps.
In closing, Johnson said the LiveWell Kershaw Coalition is committed to:
● convening organizations and residents around the topics of racism and its impact on health equity and poor health outcomes;
● establishing guidance around addressing implicit bias in the workplace; and
● leading for systemic changes within our community-based organizations.
LWK was founded by a group of community members interested in using data to guide action aimed at addressing the health issues faced by the residents of Kershaw County. Today, LWK works to foster collaboration between citizens of all ages, working in partnership with public and private sector organizations and schools to increase community awareness of health issues. The goal is to improve access to quality healthcare and encourage the people of Kershaw County to take ownership of the health of the whole county, acting together to reduce chronic disease and obesity among the members of the community. To learn more, visit livewellkershaw.org
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