Episode 3, part 1:
Shared Vision for Health Equity
LISA BLYTH [00:00:00] It made me more acutely aware, just kind of brought more to the surface about how sort of very homogeneous it is here, we have it’s a very white community. It’s a very white county. And less than one percent of our population is Black or African-American. About two percent is Native American and about 14 percent Latinx and, it… experiences like this or surveys like this always make me stop and remember that I’m in a not only as a white person, I’m in a position of privilege, but I also have accidentally landed in a living environment that has where there’s a lot of privilege just inherent by virtue of the lack of diversity in the population.
ALEXANDRA [00:01:00] That was Lisa Blyth, regional director of First Things First Yavapai County. So to begin this episode, just let’s do a small exercise. Just imagine or think about the organizations or institutions that you interact with daily, like you might work for a school or a university or even a county health department. Then you’re asked the question, how comfortable do you think that senior management, a.k.a. your boss at your organization, feels talking about discrimination, race and racism? Or how comfortable do you feel talking about race and racism? Well, these are some of the questions included in the original health equity survey created by the Community Engagement Core team at the Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative, or known as SHERC.
ALEXANDRA [00:02:02] In this episode, a Shared Vision for Health Equity, how are public health institutions in Northern Arizona like education, transportation or public health departments engaging in knowledge and conversations related to the root causes of health inequity or injustice in our communities. Thanks for listening. Alexandra Samarron your podcast host.
ALEXANDRA [00:02:30] From the Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative and the Media Innovation Center at Northern Arizona University, this is Fairness First, a podcast dedicated to exploring issues of health equity in the Southwest with a special focus on health equity in Northern Arizona. Here, we believe that good health starts in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, work and other places that we find ourselves spending time in our communities. Most importantly, everyone deserves a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible in their community despite where they live.
[00:03:13] OK, so this episode is divided into two parts, this is part one of the episode, A Shared Vision for Health Equity. In part two of this episode we’ll dive into how the regional health equity survey was created and some of the interesting findings. But for today, in part one, we’re going to hear from someone who actually took the survey.
LISA BLYTH [00:03:38] Some questions in the survey that were about do you have conversations about race or ethnicity or equality, do you actually have active conversations in your work setting? Nope. Not to say that it isn’t addressed, but we don’t have, like, active conversations about it. Do you do you feel like you can talk to the different layers of management? Nope.
ALEXANDRA [00:04:02] Remember that voice that was Lisa Blyth from the beginning of this episode, Lisa took the Regional Health Equity Survey (RHES) and we had the opportunity to talk with her about that experience. So to help us reflect on the conversation we had with Lisa, I have Dulce Jiménez here with me. She is one of the lead researchers involved in the Regional Health Equity Survey. Hi Dulce, welcome.
DULCE [00:04:29] Hi, Alexandra. Thank you. I’m very excited to be here.
ALEXANDRA [00:04:33] Yes. We’re excited to have you as a co-host Dulce! So, please, before we get into the conversation we had with Lisa, for any of our listeners who have no idea what the goal of the Regional Health Equity Survey is and why SHERC ended up deciding to do something like this. What would you say to that?
DULCE [00:04:57] Sure, so the overall goal of the Regional Health Equity Survey is to get an idea of how organizations across different sectors work on local health equity issues and to strengthen their capacity to actually do this work together. When I say sectors, that includes nonprofit business, private, government and community groups and organizations. So some examples of sectors are health and human services, community and economic development, education, housing, transportation, policy and food systems. The Regional Health Equity Survey, ask leaders from organizations across sectors in Northern Arizona, questions to explore how these different sectors can and already do work together to address health inequity in their communities. So to help us understand the Regional Health Equity Survey and the findings, Alexandra, I know you had a very good conversation with one of the participants, one of the people who actually took our survey.
ALEXANDRA [00:05:53] Yes. Yes, it was you know, it was just wonderful to talk to Lisa Blyth and listen to how she reflected about concepts like racism and equity in her community. And so why don’t we just go ahead and go to that interview?
DULCE [00:06:10] Yes, let’s do it.
LISA BLYTH [00:06:19] So when I think of my work in the context of working in a state agency, it’s pretty culturally that it’s pretty culturally diverse and I’m proud of that for our organization. And I think without sounding like I’m speaking for other people, I, I feel that most people who work in our organization feel supported and valued and respected. And I also believe that we are good. Where we’re nonracist is that the new I’ve learned new language, nonracist and antiracist and the recent events that have occurred in our country and thought and feel good and proud about that. But one of the things taking the survey made me stop and go. I didn’t know the language then, but now I would hope I can apply the language retroactively. We’re not particularly anti-racist. There were some questions in the in the survey that were about, do you have conversations about race or ethnicity or equality to actually have active conversations in your work setting? Nope.
[00:07:30] But then given recent events, it’s really upped my discomfort with the with what I perceive to be us not being very anti-racist. And I’d really like us to step up as an organization to not just be non-racist, but really actively be anti-racist and feeling an incredible as a white person, feeling an incredible sense of responsibility to somehow move that work and not knowing how to do it.
DULCE [00:08:05] Wow. It sounds like the survey helped spark deep reflections released in regards to racial equity in our society right now.
ALEXANDRA [00:08:12] Yeah, throughout the interview, I could really tell that she has been thinking about racial justice. The Regional Health Equity Survey asked Lisa things like some questions about race, racism and in our conversation, she started reflecting on anti-racism and what it means to be anti-racist, both on a personal level and organizational level. And so before we kind of hear more about Lisa’s reflection, we want to take a step back to understand what anti-racism is and to do this, we turn to the work of Ibram. X. Kendi, one of America’s foremost historians and leading anti-racist voices right now, and the founding director of the Center for Anti-racist Research at Boston University.
[00:09:06] So in his book, How to Be an Anti-racist, he describes:
[00:09:11] “The opposite of racist is not racist. It is anti-racist. What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of hierarchy as a racist or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people as a racist or locates the roots of problems in power and policies as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere as a racist or confronts racial inequities as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of not racist. The claim of not racist neutrality is mask for racism.” -Ibram X. Kendi
DULCE [00:09:56] Thanks, Alexandra, for sharing that. What a powerful quote. There’s a lot to unpack there. Right? So anti-racism is all about an active resistance to racism and racism is not just about individual people and their actions. Instead, racism is a system of oppression that was created by and is kept through policies, practices and procedures that create inequities between racial groups. So we have a role to play in anti-racism, not only as individuals, but also as agencies, organizations, entities, which is what Lisa was getting at earlier, right?
ALEXANDRA [00:10:30] Yes, yes. X. Kendi also describes that the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it and then dismantle it. And, you know, I think that the process of identifying, describing and dismantling racism within the institutions we work for or interact with in our social lives can be intimidating, overwhelming, uncomfortable, scary to confront feelings that can lead to inaction and apathy.
DULCE [00:11:05] Yeah. So it’s like if you don’t have to talk about it, you don’t have to deal with these issues that seem too big for any one person to solve on their own.
ALEXANDRA [00:11:15] Exactly. So let’s bring it back. To my conversation with Lisa to talk about this a little more, Lisa reflected on some of the things she’s doing in an effort to be anti-racist and so on a personal level, Lisa talked about finding small ways to be informed and active. She basically said:
LISA BLYTH [00:11:37] My learning to become anti-racist has for me been in little things. So, for example, it has been deliberately choosing books to read with my son that have the characters are are people of color.
We’ve been doing that for about a month now, and it’s been making if I can’t read the whole books, I look for a podcast or I make sure that I like every couple of weeks I’m attending some sort of webinar or something like that that has to do with the current state of affairs and how to…so I’m constantly trying to find ways to stay mindful so that I don’t fall into complacency again.
And and it still feels like a heavy lift. And which makes me that much more sensitive to what it’s like to be a person who lives in skin that is not white all the time.
DULCE [00:12:34] I can tell that there was a lot of reflection going on during this conversation about anti-racism, and it sounds like Lisa is being proactive about her learning.
ALEXANDRA [00:12:42] Yes. And as I was listening to Lisa, I reflect about her experiences, I started to also do some reflecting on my own. So on the personal level, Lisa has some reflections about what she was doing to be actively anti-racist. But there’s another level that Lisa talked about, and that is the work level. Earlier, we heard
Lisa say she had really like her workplace to step up as an organization, to move beyond being non-racist to being anti-racist as Lisa explores what it means to be anti-racist on a personal level. She also comes up with solutions to health inequity on the work level and the one of which is communicating and working across different sectors.
DULCE [00:13:33] Alexandra that aligns perfectly with our survey.
ALEXANDRA [00:13:36] It does! Basically, during this conversation, Lisa talked about how one of the things she tries to do is be aware of what’s happening in the region and keep all that knowledge fresh in her mind so she can help create connections between people and efforts that could work together. Let’s listen to Lisa share an example of how that happened recently.
LISA BLYTH [00:14:04] I by virtue of trying of working to be aware of the different things that are happening in our region. Transportation has been a really big deal for a very long time. We don’t have we don’t have public transportation. We don’t have sort of not to speak up. There are there are pockets and there are definitely some efforts of some transportation companies that really work very hard. But in terms of public transportation, by definition, no.
Anyway, because of the through the CARES Act, there is funding for transportation departments. And part of the funding I learned I was for example, I was in a meeting about community impact, about housing circumstances, and they were, of course, transportation came up and they were sharing someone shared that there is funding through the CARES Act, some of it for transportation departments, can be used to transport food to people.
And I also know from my work, from my day job, sort to speak, that there are, all of the schools are working on their lunch programs. They turn them virtual and they made the food accessible to kids of any age who may not have even been enrolled in school. But then they were running out of resources and there were some difficulties in our more remote rural regions. It was difficult to do it on a daily basis. They were having to do just a couple days a week sort of thing and and compile them and that sort of thing.
So I just suggested to the person connected to the transportation CARES Act funding and the person connected to the work for the school…are working with the schools. A lot of schools. I said, hey, did you know this money exists and you guys could work? And so I just got an email today that that their two entities and then NACOG, a couple of our transportation, Cottonwood area transportation and then the transportation…I’m forgetting the name of the transportation company in Prescott, and I may be forgetting a couple others.
I apologize, but there’s about six or eight of them who have gotten together and they’ve created a collaboration, these other entities, to draw down this funding so they can get more food out into the communities in Yavapai, and that’s a really big thing, all I did was tell two people to talk to each other and it’s exciting and it’s cool to know that that sometimes that that’s all it takes because I sometimes get overwhelmed like, this is such a big problem.
How am I going to do anything? And so it was really a nice experience to go, oh, I just told you to to talk to each other. Really glad this worked out and really glad that more people are going to have access to food in the region.
ALEXANDRA [00:16:50] What a great example of breaking that across sectors to move the needle forward.
DULCE [00:16:55] Yes. And that’s essentially what a Regional Health Equity Survey is all about, that multi-sectoral approach. Lisa gave us an example of how local agencies and organizations and local communities can work together to meet the needs of their community and advance health equity.
ALEXANDRA [00:17:10] Right? Right. The other component I was thinking about when she connected sectors in her community was the idea of equitable distribution of funding. I could tell that she understood there was a gap in food accessibility in her community and that funding the transportation infrastructure could really make a difference. And so I think she identified the funding gap and acted upon it. So we heard from Lisa about the importance of working with other sectors to help our communities be as healthy as possible. She also emphasized that research plays a valuable role in achieving health equity. And so let’s hear some of her thoughts about research.
LISA BLYTH [00:17:59] Is research valuable or right now? Sure, because this is just one phase of our very long lives and experiences. And that information, like there’s a whole kinds of new information and there’s all kinds of things to learn about who we who we are and how we operate in circumstances like this. There’s not going to be another opportunity, hopefully for decades in which a circumstance like this presents itself, really sheds light on how we behave. It’s useful information. And also life is going to get…we’re going to always have to continue to support and help people. We have a lot of we have a lot of work to do. And so anything that you’re discovering now or that you’re continuing to work on now, it’s it’s happening during a crisis time, but it’s information that will be used far beyond the crisis to continue to help and move progress forward.
DULCE [00:18:52] I love it. Lisa is totally validating us in all our work right now.
ALEXANDRA [00:18:55] Yes. I feel so positive and cheered on now. Now I feel like I have to do a lot of reflecting of my own. And there’s so much work we have to do.
DULCE [00:19:06] Yes, there is a lot of work for us to do when it comes to health equity. But remember, we are not alone. On that note, you want to share one of Lisa’s final reflections. So Lisa said:.
LISA BLYTH [00:19:17] I don’t I just was thinking and sort of on a sentimental when all of us and just from all this reflection and everything gets me. And I know when I talk to friends and colleagues too, they’re like, oh, you know, and I have this posted on my wall. One of the things that came through from that says, “yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I’m wise, so I’m changing myself.” And so when I get really overwhelmed and worked up, it’s like, oh, right. What’s the thing I can do today? What’s a small act I can do today? And that’s sort of the governing principle to keep moving through.
DULCE [00:20:05] Lisa reminded us that there is deep work we have to do within ourselves to recognize and act on our personal and organizational role in advancing health equity, even when it feels like a problem is too big for one person or organization to solve. We can find hope in remembering that there are many people working towards the same health equity issues, and we can all find ways to work individually as well as together to foster the well-being of our communities.
ALEXANDRA [00:20:40] Join us next time for part two of this episode, a shared vision for health equity to listen to a conversation with lead researchers say Dulce Jiménez and Mark Remiker from SHERC, who are behind the Regional Health Equity Survey, design and implementation, to tell us more about what they’ve learned from participants responses so far around issues of health equity, the root causes of inequity and the social determinants of health.
ALEXANDRA [00:21:11] We want to hear from you. Visit us on Facebook at NAUCHER, Instagram at NAU.CHER. Follow us on Twitter at SHERArizona. That is C, H, E, R Arizona. Or send us an email at SHERC@nau.edu. Tell us what you like. What can we do better or tell us what topics you want to listen to in our podcast.
ALEXANDRA [00:21:44] Southwest Health Equity Research, Collaborative Community Engagement Core and the Media Innovation Center at NAU produced this episode. It was edited by Alexandra Samarron and Dulce Jiménez. Music from https://filmmusic.io, song titled “Fearless First” by Kevin McCloud, licensed by http://creativecommons.org. Special thanks to NIMHD grant# U54MD012388 and Northern Arizona University’s Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative for funding this podcast. Thanks to our Fairness First team, Carmenlita Chief, and Dulce Jiménez, from the Community Engagement Core, and Brian Rackham Director of the NAU Media Innovation Center. Thanks for making this podcast possible. I’m Alexandra Samarron. Thanks for listening.