Health departments are building power for health equity

After years of struggling to close health disparities, a new movement has taken root: health departments are using a set of strategic practices to confront the power imbalances and forms of oppression at the root of health inequities, change the conversation about what creates health equity, develop leadership and support innovation, and build a movement for health equity.

We want to scale up this transformation

This website is structured around a set of strategic practices that health departments can apply to more meaningfully and comprehensively advance health equity. Over and over, more health departments are asking “What are the strategic steps we can take to advance health equity at our health department?” This resource showcases success stories from across the United States to answer this question.

Local health departments are championing transformational change by:
  • Building internal capacity and infrastructure and taking strategic risks to advance equity

  • Fostering strategic community partnerships to build power and engage in social justice movements

  • Working across government agencies to develop shared ownership for health equity

Get to know our case studies

New York City Races to Justice

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, launched their Race to Justice initiative to reform internal policies, practices, and operations to advance racial equity and social justice across the Department. The initiative builds staff skills to address racism, implements policies to lessen the impact of structural oppression, and strengthens collaborations with communities across the city.

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New York City Races to Justice
Kansas City Includes Life Expectancy in City Business Plan

After data revealed place-based inequities in life expectancy in Kansas City, Missouri, the local health department advocated for the inclusion of life expectancy as a strategic objective in the City’s business plan. They also convened a summit of city staff to examine how to address these inequities across departments.

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Kansas City Includes Life Expectancy in City Business Plan

What underlies our approach?

To systematically dismantle the patterns of othering and exclusion in government practice, we must pursue a wall-to-wall transformation of how local health departments work internally, with communities, and alongside other government agencies.

This inside/outside approach requires health departments to build internal capacity and a will to act on the social determinants of health and health equity. It also requires developing relationships with and mobilizing communities and government to advocate for action on health equity.

Check out our webinar series

To learn more about the Health Equity Guide and how health departments are advancing health equity, check out this 4-part webinar series with national experts and local health departments profiled in the Health Equity Guide. Each webinar focused on a set of strategic practices that health departments can take to pursue a wall-to-wall transformation of how they work internally, with communities, and alongside other government agencies. Organized by HIP, these webinars were co-sponsored with GARE, NCHE, and NACCHO. Learn more about the webinar series