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The Collective for Health Equity and Well-Being

Cooperative Extension’s Collective for Health Equity and Well-Being is a community of Extension personnel and their partners united by their shared commitment to advancing health equity and well-being. Members work together to support the implementation of Cooperative Extension’s National Framework for Health Equity and Well-Being (2021) to ensure that all people can be as healthy as they can be.

Health Equity and Well Being, how do we achieve it?

 

IMG_20221103_133908Recently, I attended the Extension-related Appalachian Health Summit in Roanoke, Virginia. There, we joined many other Appalachian states in discussing determinants of health and the challenges our communities face to access and enjoy health, quality care, and well-being.

In this blog, I’d like to pose a question to ourselves as Extension services about how overwhelming this quest for health equity must feel. We left the summit very excited about the possibilities and in my case, with a mind filled with ideas and a conviction that we cannot advance health solely on our own.

What is the appropriate and effective role Extension should play? Who are the partners that are missing from our table and which tables of potential partners are missing us, Extension? These questions are directly tied to the summit’s discussion around shared stewardship. It is imperative that we connect across differences and focus on mutual interests that collectively bring together unheard and unaccounted voices of the people who lack access to the best chances to enjoy good health. This shared stewardship also calls for creating opportunities as together we align aspirations and further commit to “multi-solving”. One additional concept discussed was “learning and adapting.” Seeing everything as an opportunity to learn and discern the data that confronts us as we study the state of health and the best use of those data to put theory to practice.

Another great takeaway from the Summit was understanding the conceptual framework from Thriving Together found at https://thriving.us/ I found it to be so relevant to our work in Extension and to offer a level of logic that could match the interest of decision-makers. In Sum, we want our communities in the counties we serve to move from suffering and struggling to a state of thriving. In doing so we must understand the state of the vital conditions of said communities. Struggling and suffering often lead to a huge demand for urgent services (those services that anyone suffering and struggling needs to regain their best possible state of well-being). In my opinion that demand tends to catch the attention and budgets of local, state, and federal governments and in most cases also of charitable organizations. The need is so overwhelming that as societies we get stuck in that state of urgent services and do not spend enough time and capital in addressing the vital conditions from the beginning.  The thriving model argues that we need a balance between vital conditions and urgent services. In a way, I see it as preventative actions and can help reduce the demand for urgent services. A lower demand may (not always) indicate a higher level of vital conditions met.

Wondering what the vital conditions are?  There are the conditions we all need to reach our fullest potential. Here is the list in no specific order: a thriving natural world, basic needs for health and safety, human housing, meaningful work and wealth, lifelong learning, reliable transportation, and a sense of belonging and civic muscle (the power to share a common world). As you read this list, you probably are thinking how in Extension we play a part in each of these vital conditions through our programming. I hope you have, and I challenge you to discuss the role you and your programs can play. Then focus on those actions that can lead to those vital conditions as outcomes. Build a logic model for each and invite and go to other tables to build partnerships that also aim at addressing those conditions. Only together can we make progress toward a healthier society that can prosper and enjoy the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

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I appreciate your insight and your support for thriving communities, Jorge. Focusing on the vital conditions is like preventive medicine. When we focus on the upstream changes, individuals, families, and communities are healthier and more resilient.

Great article, Jorge.  The vital conditions seem to be an easy-to-remember framework for thinking about the root causes of distress, but more importantly what must be present for individuals and communities to thrive.

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