Events of the past several years (the brutal death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, heightened advocacy by LGBTQ+ organizations and immigrant rights groups, among others) have helped to move individual moral indignation to community action. Inequitable policies in health care, housing, and education have resulted in inequitable access to resources and poor outcomes for many marginalized populations.
Early in the pandemic, data on racial variations in infection rates and access to treatment revealed that Maine had some of the worst outcomes in the U.S. (the University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy). While those statistics improved somewhat over time, COVID had an arguably positive impact on public awareness of the disparities and the need for immediate action to reduce them. The Maine Centers for Disease Control established a large advisory body of organizations representing racial and ethnic communities to identify needed actions, such as vaccine clinics and social media campaigns, with significant resources directed to support these activities.
These inequities, fed by decades of systemic racism, exist in every part of Maine – in cities, rural communities, coastal fishing villages, the Western mountains and Northern farming communities. Only recently, led by entities like the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations, Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness, and Maine Equal Justice, has the spotlight turned on the critical need for good data (analyzed and reported by race, ethnicity, income and other critical factors), strong community-led programs and equitable allocation of resources.
The Maine Alliance for Health and Prosperity is committed to ensuring equity in each of our actions, from membership and participation in meetings to convenings, education, and advocacy. We recognize we won’t get it right every time and taking a learning approach is necessary. Using an equity lens as a tool is critical to learning and sustaining change.
Guiding principles and corresponding discussion questions comprise our Equity Framework. We are committed to self-reflection and evaluation of how well we put these principles into action and to seeking candid feedback from communities with whom we work and interact.
Principle 1: All Maine people have just and equitable opportunities for economic prosperity and access to health care.
Principle 2: Those who are most affected by health and economic challenges are included in all aspects of decision-making and benchmarking progress against outcomes.
Principle 3: All data collected, analyzed, and reported will be disaggregated to reflect the outcomes and experiences of the most affected populations, while adhering to established data reporting guidelines, including privacy and security.
Principle 4: Multiple and diverse partners are engaged in and help to lead cross-sector efforts to imagine and implement sustainable outcomes that advance equity, economic prosperity, and individual and community health for all.
Principle 5: Catalyze bold, creative, and visionary leadership throughout our communities, including among BIPOC and white leaders, to imagine and guide system changes that advance equity, economic prosperity, and individual and community health for all.