Today’s post is by our new communications officer, Stephanie Luczak, who describes how her experiences helped shape her understanding of the importance of communicating about health equity.
Born and raised in New Britain, I learned early on about the pervasive inequities in our state. By the time I got to high school, I felt lost in the crowd of nearly 3,500 students, struggling to find my voice. Simultaneously, I was aware of the ways that I, as a white student, was treated differently than my peers of color, who made up most of the student body. I was put into nearly all-white gifted and talented programs and honors classes while many of my Black and brown peers were being over-policed. I also noticed ways in which New Britain was perceived differently from nearby towns such as Farmington and Berlin.
I wanted to speak up about the injustice that I witnessed. I found my voice by becoming involved in the YMCA’s Youth and Government mock legislature program, where I joined the press team and focused on highlighting diverse youth voices from across the state. This fueled my passion for working toward a more participatory government where everyone is equipped with the knowledge about ways to change public policy.
About a decade later, I continue to build on the resolve I developed at New Britain High School, advocating for a state where opportunities for good health and success are not so deeply connected to race and class. As someone naturally drawn to “systems-thinking,” I tend to think about how individual behaviors or outcomes are influenced by the laws and policies that shape the environments we live in. My work experiences over the last five years at the state and national levels have focused on designing policies and practices to be centered around racial equity, specifically for children and their families. Most recently, I worked at the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut managing a federal grant for enhancing the infrastructure of the children’s behavioral health system. This involved putting practices in place for schools, pediatricians, and behavioral health providers to better communicate with each other and working with state leaders to ensure policies reflected those practices.
Across all my experiences, I have continuously run up against two things:
- The constant use of hard-to-understand language (“jargon”) about complex issues, making it difficult for both decision makers and community members to have informed opinions if they are not entrenched in the administration of policies or practices.
- Decision-making being dominated by the perspectives of only a few, rather than centering those most directly impacted by policy decisions.
These challenges have made me realize the importance of strategic communications in making research-based information about policy solutions as accessible as possible. I’m proud to have joined the Connecticut Health Foundation where I can help translate complicated concepts about health equity and public policy to better equip both decision makers and community members in identifying challenges and reaching potential solutions to improve health for people of color in Connecticut. It is my hope that I can use my voice at CT Health to inspire others to make change at the systems level.