Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network (WMHEN)

The Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network seeks regional strategies and opportunities to create conditions in which communities are able to attain the highest level of health for all residents. To eliminate preventable inequities our work areas include:

  • POLICY: Create a regional policy voice for Western Massachusetts cities and towns
  • RACIAL JUSTICE: Make racial justice a named priority in the Network’s activities
  • MEANINGFUL DATA COLLECTION: Support collection and sharing of meaningful data that emphasizes the voices of often marginalized communities
  • CROSS-SECTOR COLLABORATION: Build on cross-sector collaborations to include planners, funders, public health, hospitals and health care, and community development corporations

SPHHS and WMHEN Announce Health Equity Webinar Series for Fall 2020

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS) and its partners in the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network (WMHEN) have announced a series of virtual conversations related to racism as a public health crisis. The webinar series replace its biannual in-person Health Equity Summit, which has been rescheduled to September 24, 2021, and will cover topics such as COVID-19 and Health Inequities, the Digital Divide and Public Health, Reproductive Health Justice, and Intergenerational Conversations on the future and equity.

“Racism is a public health crisis — manifesting as police brutality and the disparities made more explicit by COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected communities of color and has further illuminated the deeply rooted structural racism in our country,” says Risa Silverman, Director of the SPHHS Office of Public Health Practice and Outreach. “This series will delve into the underlying factors behind these disparities in exposure and care, the long-standing barriers to healthcare that communities of color continue to experience, and begin conversations as to what we can do collectively to address them.”

The new health equity series officially kicked off on August 12th with a webinar on “Race and Health Equity Tools for Local Governments and Organizations” featuring speakers Phyllis Meadows of the Kresge Foundation, Paulo Gomes of the Massachusetts Public Health Association Policy Council, and Catherine Ratté of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. The webinar introduced participants to Racial Equity Impact Assessments, declarations of Racism as a Public Health Emergency, Racial Equity Action Plans, Health & Equity Screens, and other tools cities and organizations are using. A recording of the session is available here.

Upcoming conversations include:

Brenda D. Evans, MPH, coordinator and community research liaison with the SPHHS Center for Community Health Equity Research and co-chair of the WMHEN Conversations, is excited to host Loretta Ross, activist and co-founder of the Reproductive Justice Movement, for three of these conversations. The talks, held in partnership with the New England Public Health Training Center, will address human rights and public health, reproductive health justice, and white supremacy.

“The series of conversations are needed and timely,” says Evans. “I am very excited to listen and learn from Loretta Ross - she is one of my sheroes!”

Along with the upcoming webinars, the WMHEN is working with communities to develop an Intergenerational Conversations project focusing on creating and working towards a collective vision for a more just, equitable future. Intergenerational Conversations will ask the questions what is the world we want to live in, what does it look like, and how do we get there together? How can older generations support young people and those advocating for racial justice? 

If you are interested in participating in these conversations, please email Risa Silverman at risa@schoolph.umass.edu.

Activities & Topics

Activities:

  • Policy Assemblies
  • Educational and Legislative Forums
  • Regional Summits

Topics

  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Robert Wood Johnson/University of Wisconsin County Health Rankings and Roadmaps to Health
  • Hospital Community Health Needs Assessments and Improvement Plans (CHNAs and CHIPS)
  • Best Practices

What is health equity? Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities. (Healthy People 2020, Health.gov)

How do you advance health equity in your towns and cities? Tag us on Facebook @Western MA Health Equity Network or contribute to the conversation with your story.