I recently attended Community Catalyst’s Consumer Advocate Convening in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was great to reconnect with so many old friends and welcome new friends to the mix. As I looked around the room during the plenaries and workshops, this convening felt even more powerful because of the many new and diverse participants. And I wasn’t the only one with that observation — this same sentiment was echoed through the hallways. It reinforced for me the difference we can collectively make as the health advocacy movement continues to diversify and include more voices and perspectives.

Women's Healthcare Leader, Byllye Avery
Byllye Avery, founder of Black Women’s Health Imperative, giving a talk about intersectionality at the Community Catalyst 2016 Annual Advocate Convening. (Stephen Eisele/FOR COMMUNITY CATALYST)

At Community Catalyst, we know that diversifying the health advocacy movement is critical. Achieving health equity and minimizing health disparities will be realized only with the full participation of communities of color and other marginalized people. The best change occurs when the communities most affected are involved in creating solutions.

“Being at this conference helped me see the connections between the work we do in our communities and making sure the voices of our communities are represented in health advocacy and policymaking, ” said Helen Sun of the Light and Salt Association, a Houston, Texas-based organization primarily focused on outreach and enrollment within Asian communities. 

Community Catalyst has been working to address health equity and reduce racial disparities in all of our programmatic work. For example, our Close the Gap campaign seeks to engage Latino organizations or those serving the Latino community so hard-to-reach communities can gain access to affordable health care. Our Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation prioritizes expanding the collection and reporting of data on health disparities to ensure efforts to improve care specifically address those inequities in our health system. Our Substance Use Disorders team also works to identify and end racial bias in treatment for substance use disorders.

In addition to integrating an equity lens in our programs, we are working to diversify the attendees at our conference and the recipients of our grants. This past year, Community Catalyst spearheaded an initiative to incorporate equity and inclusion into our initiatives by funding and raising the voices of communities of color. We are reaching out to organizations of color and supporting our state and local partners to do the same.

Mirna Castro, Director of Health Enrollment, Literacy and Promotions at Servicios de la Raza, Inc., shared the impact this funding change has had on her organization in their work to engage and make enrollment more accessible for the Latino community. Her organization was able to participate in the Connect for Health Colorado (C4HCO) Outreach & Communications Advisory Group and share concerns about the workings of the Connect for Colorado, Colorado’s Affordable Care Act Marketplace, from the cultural and linguistic lens of the Latino community. These efforts led to the translation of provider directories into Spanish.

“There is no doubt that Community Catalyst needs to do much more to create and sustain a diverse health advocacy community,” said Jacquie Anderson, Community Catalyst’s Chief Operating Officer. “We will continue to encourage the participation of diverse communities in our convenings, and to ensure these communities are meaningfully engaged in our work and supported through our grantmaking initiatives. When we work together we can make a difference in reducing health disparities, eliminating barriers to quality care, addressing structural injustices, promoting meaningful collaboration and fostering leadership.”

Think of your coalition, your constituents and your funded partnerships: Are you doing your part? Join us in building a diverse health advocacy movement.

Nell O’Connell is Community Catalyst’s Grants Manager and a member of the Health Equity Team.