To make progress in addressing racial and ethnic health disparities, community-based organizations, state consumer advocacy groups and funders must work together to ensure that new national opportunities bring meaningful and effective change, according to a new report by Community Catalyst. 

Across the country, community-based activities to improve health equity are growing.  The new national health care law and the President’s upcoming National Partnership for Action to end health disparities offer many opportunities to expand this work.

In the report, A Path Toward Health Equity: Strategies to Strengthen Community Advocacy, Community Catalyst recommends developing a more coordinated and sweeping strategy that uses a range of tactics, but emphasizes changing laws and policies to attain the broadest impact. It advises organizations at the local, state and national levels to work closely together, with local groups playing a core role.

With implications for health equity efforts across the country, the report is based on a study of efforts by community-based groups in six states – California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio. 

“Through interviews and online surveys, we identified successes and challenges faced by organizations doing health equity work,” said Lisa Renee Holderby, director of health equity at Community Catalyst. “With funding and assistance, programs that support health equity initiatives will be able to reach out to a broader audience and work to ensure that community voices are heard wherever health care decisions are made – from local hospitals to the federal government.”

The report encourages all organizations working to improve the health care system to prioritize equity work, deepen their understanding of health equity issues and learn about the work of community-based groups.

“Community-based organizations and state consumer advocates must work together to ensure implementation of the new national law and state health care reform efforts include the voices of everyone in our communities,” said Holderby.

Read the complete report or its executive summary for more information.