This week has been full of talking about social determinants of health, health equity, and healthy neighborhoods in a variety of places. We started the week at the Park Pride conference in Atlanta, a gathering of planners, advocates, volunteers, and landscape architects committed to creating public green spaces. We spoke about how built environment is a social determinant of health and encouraged people to see their work as a part of influencing the health of communities. The next day, Breanna spoke to the CDC Public Health Ethics Committee about the use of narrative (or story) in public health. She talked about the way in which we used our personal narratives to discuss social determinants of health in the book and the value of narratives in validating and understanding human experience.

Changing our narrative on poverty from an individual condition to social problem can change our policies and programs.

We ended the week in Cincinnati at the Christian Community Health Fellowship Conference where we did a CCHFx talk and two workshops. We argued that health won’t be achieved within the health care system and offered strategies for clinics to branch into social determinants of health.

Each group has been different in size, demographics, and focus, but each has been engaged. We love the question and answer time when we get a glimpse of other people’s narratives, experiences, and visions for a better future. Mostly we have been struck by the fact that people care. No one had to attend our sessions. They had options for workshops and often we wondered if our message would resonate.

Do park planners want to hear about health from two people who work in a clinic?

Do clinic leaders and providers want to attend a session on how the health care system can’t make people healthy?

It turns out, they do.

We often find ourselves wondering if we as a society are making any real progress on poverty, affordable housing, ending systemic racism, and achieving equity. We have a long way to go. But we think about how much we’ve changed over the years of working in the clinic, researching and writing the book, and now sharing it and processing it with others. As we talk about the themes in the book, we don’t know what people will do with the information when they leave the session. We hope some leave with new ideas or encouragement to keep pushing forward. Maybe others reconsider assumptions or experience some dissonance between the narratives we share and their beliefs.  But we believe in the power of individuals confronting assumptions, learning from their neighbors, and consciously changing to affect change. Better is possible.

Onward and upward to health equity!

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