In the wake of the COVID pandemic, health equity has been pushed to the forefront. People living in low-income communities were hit hard by the successive waves of COVID, catastrophic natural disasters, and the trauma of isolation. The impact of the last two years will be generational unless we work more intentionally on meeting the unique needs of each community. But working to create change is difficult, whether you are working at the grassroots or grasstops level. The presenters of the upcoming workshop, “Equity in Action: Utilizing a diversified and inclusive framework for systemic change” believe that the first step is to share our experiences and learn from each other. The focus of this workshop will be on health equity, and the facilitators hope to have a shared conversation on how we can collectively meet the challenge ahead.
The facilitators of this workshop, Nomita Bajwa, Tyenise Blackmon, and Stephanie Kellam, have worked on a variety of community health promotion projects together for close to a decade. Over this time, they have learned to collaborate and bring their unique perspective to each health event to improve participation and, more importantly, to support positive changes and empower the people they work with to improve community health. Stephanie Kellam serves as the Director of Wellness and Community Engagement for UnitedHealthcare and is looking forward to continuing the conversation around health equity. While Stephanie acknowledges that health equity is essential at every stage of life, working with youth holds a special significance.
“Working with youth directly to help guide them towards a more active and healthy lifestyle is rewarding and worthwhile as this is a time when lifestyle habits form. “But changing behaviors has been difficult and almost impossible if we focus solely on implementing health promotion without considering the local context”, says Nomita Bajwa.
Nomita, who began her career 30 years ago as a clinical pharmacist, is now fully dedicated to community health as the founder of Wellness Geeks Consultants. Her heritage and upbringing in a small rural town have informed her understanding of how context matters in health promotion. “What I appreciate about our partnerships is that we can bring our whole selves to each event and incorporate our widely different experiences and knowledge base into each event.”
She continued to point out that the long-term commitment each of them had made to their community was a great asset in having more productive conversations as we brainstorm innovative ways to implement health education that sticks.” While Dr. Bajwa worked primarily at the district level, Tyenise began her foray into community health as a parent educator. Seeing firsthand the impact of health on the children in her school, she started one of the district’s most comprehensive school-community health fairs in a low-income neighborhood. She now serves as the Director of Community Engagement and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Action for Healthy Kids. Action for Healthy Kids is a national non-profit organization committed to providing funding, resources, and programming to districts and schools to address health inequities and disparities.
Tyenise offered, “I hope our session will provide participants an opportunity to have meaningful conversations, learn practical engagement best practices, and provide further insight on the many assets and opportunities underserved communities possess.”
The facilitators thank “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, UT System, and It’s Time Texas” for the opportunity to present at this event and look forward to meeting others in the community who share in their passion for this work. Don’t forget to register for Equity in Action: Utilizing a Diversified and Inclusive Framework for Systemic change on October 29, 2021, at 11 am.
Who Should attend? This workshop provides an opportunity to network with other school district leaders, health professionals, SHAC members and community health advocates interested in developing approaches that consider equity and want to improve community health. We encourage those with experience to come and share their expertise with others just building their practice, as we collectively learn different ways to improve the health of our respective communities.
What will be discussed? Our goals are to discuss the current working definition of health equity. As we work through each section, we will discuss how equity looks in practice, discuss our collective areas of interest, provide a framework to build your assessment based on your practice area. We will provide an example of how we were able to create a flexible nutrition education strategy for a large Texas school district.
What will you take away? The facilitators hope that you will take away some ideas on incorporating local context into existing health promotion strategies and finding new partners in the ongoing challenge of improving the lives of all Texans.
This blog was written by: Nomita Bajwa, CEO and Founder, Wellness Geeks LLC