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Strengthening the Health Equity Advocacy Field in a Turbulent Year

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Toward Health Equity in Colorado: Supporting Resiliency in the Health Equity Advocacy Field

By Felisa Gonzales, PhD, MPH and Noelle Dorward

2020 in Colorado was characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and protests against police brutality and racial injustice. In this unprecedented context, 18 direct service, community organizing and policy advocacy organizations (the “Cohort”) funded through The Colorado Trust’s Health Equity Advocacy (HEA) strategy responded to the needs of their communities while also strengthening Colorado’s health equity advocacy field.

A new evaluation report by Social Policy Research Associates titled Toward Health Equity in Colorado: Supporting Resiliency in the Health Equity Advocacy Field details how the HEA Cohort relied upon relationships and structures developed between 2015 and 2019 to build capacity for change and advocate for equitable policies in 2020. Efforts included an 11-part Health Equity Advocacy Summit Series (see below for titles and links to recordings), racial equity capacity-building events and informational and communication supports for advocacy around housing, food security and COVID-19 recovery.

The HEA Cohort was well-positioned to address the health inequities and social injustices highlighted by the events of 2020. In the words of a Cohort organization staff member:

Given the realities of this year and with COVID, [racial justice] is something we’ve been able to elevate more. This is the work that we’ve been doing already for a long time as an organization—how our health issues, our social justice issues, our racial justice issues, how they’re all connected. And I think we’ve been able to rise to the occasion… and I think we’ve had a lot of opportunities to have more people in solidarity with us in this work than before.

Systems and policy change is long-term work. “Trying to undo systemic racism can’t happen in [a few] years,” a Cohort organization staff member stated. While the HEA strategy has formally come to an end, the work will continue.

The report offers some lessons learned about how to successfully engage in health equity advocacy field building. First, it’s critical to develop a shared understanding of health equity that includes the pursuit of racial equity. Second, meaningfully engaging communities most impacted by health inequities in policy advocacy is essential, but also difficult to do. Lastly, field building requires long-term investment and targeted support for infrastructure and capacity building.

We invite you to read the evaluation report to learn more about how the HEA Cohort built resilience in the health equity advocacy field as well as their own organizations in 2020. We also invite you to view recordings from the Health Equity Advocacy Summit Series (linked below and available on the HEA strategy page of our website). Please contact Felisa Gonzales, Evaluation & Learning Manager, or Noelle Dorward, Advocacy & Policy Partner, for more information.

Health Equity Advocacy Summit Series Recordings

Aug. 12, 2020: Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.: “America is Changing. Are You Ready?” (available in English only)

Aug. 19, 2020: Colorado Legislative Panel: Leading in Extraordinary Times (English | Spanish)

Aug. 21, 2020: john a. powell: “Building Communities of Belonging in the Face of Othering” (English | Spanish)

Aug. 31, 2020: Building the Health Equity Advocacy Field in Colorado (English | Spanish)

Sept. 2, 2020: Akaya Windwood: “Exploring the State of the Possible” (English | Spanish)

Oct. 12, 2020: Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Honoring our Relations (English | Spanish)

Oct. 22, 2020: Young Leaders Rising: Reimagining the Future (English | Spanish)

Oct. 26, 2020: Fierce Civility: A Conversation with Joe Weston and Michelle Otero (English | Spanish)

Nov. 9, 2020: Post-Election Summit: What’s Next? The Role of Philanthropy in Advancing Equity through Policy (English | Spanish)

Nov. 16, 2020: Standing at the Gates of Hope: Stories from Three Women Who Bend the Arc Toward Justice (English | Spanish)

Dec. 7, 2020: Colorado Legislative Summit: Planning for 2021 (English | Spanish)

Learn about the health equity issues affecting Coloradans at Collective Colorado, a publication of The Colorado Trust.