A New Approach for Tackling Connecticut’s Health Disparities
I admit I was surprised to learn that Connecticut ranks among the country’s worst states in terms of disparities in health, in spite of being near the top of the nation’s lists of wealthiest states. This insight came as our firm, GALEWiLL Design, began working with the Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health), which is deeply committed to addressing the racial and ethnic health disparities within the state. CT Health invests in leaders who can influence change among their respective constituents. Traditionally, that approach has been to appeal to leaders’ sense of fairness and moral obligation. But, after a decade in this work, CT Health felt this approach wasn’t getting enough traction. So they, along with the Conference of Churches, brought in GALEWiLL to work on a new model for engaging leaders. And as we enter the New Year, we’re excited about the launch of the new initiative, the Campaign for a Stronger Connecticut.
How did we arrive at this critical juncture? It began in 2011 with a simple question: “What organizations are impacted by disparities that could actually help end them?” When thinking this way, the opportunities abounded. Businesses were seeing rising health insurance costs and decreases in productivity, in part because of the poor health of their employees. Entire school districts were again witnessing growing achievement gaps, in part due to the poor health of their students. Community and faith-based organizations could not fulfill their missions if they did not first address the day-to-day healthcare needs of their constituents. In health care, a largely inefficient system contributes to disparities and vice versa.
Working with CT Health and The Conference of Churches, we engaged a group of leaders from different fields as part of a newly formed Health Equity Leadership Council. The Council was introduced to our new strategic framework and more effective language – language that would allow leaders to communicate their own interest in ending health disparities. For businesses, a healthier workforce means a healthier bottom line. Healthier students perform better in school. Healthier citizens are better able to engage with their community. Healthier patients mean a less taxed health care system.
Over the past 12 months, we spoke to almost 200 leaders across the state to hone and improve our approach, thinking and language. As a result, the Campaign for a Stronger Connecticut was created, distilling the learning into a new brand design and collateral material to help pilot CT Health’s new approach to other leaders in the upcoming year.
Moving forward, the Campaign for a Stronger Connecticut will bring in leaders in education, health, business and community organizations. Grants dispersed to three grantees (one each from the fields of education, business and community development) will pilot approaches for engaging the leaders in the Campaign. We’ll also introduce a toolkit and materials for dissemination, as well as provide technical assistance to the grantees and other stakeholders.
We believe the Campaign for a Stronger Connecticut has tremendous potential for creating health equity for people of all races and colors. Ultimately, we hope this work will validate a new model for addressing the issue of health disparities – by engaging leaders with the tools and messages that demonstrate how disparities impact their organizations, they will take steps not only to address them within their own work but advocate within their network for their peers to do the same.
We anticipate the new toolkit will be available by mid-2013, so please check back for updates. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about the new Campaign – or in implementing this program within your own organization or community – let us know! You can respond in the comments or email Lina Paredes, Vice President of Program, at lina at cthealth dot org.
Today’s guest post was written by Joseph Pullen, a Director at GALEWiLL Design. GALEWiLL Design is a for-purpose company that designs social change programs, communications, advocacy and action.
Photo purchased from fotolia.com (© momius – Fotolia.com).