Inside NHPHA: A Monthly Column Written by NHPHA Leadership: Equity, COVID-19, and the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge

written by Joan H. Ascheim, MSN, NHPHA Executive Director

Equity and COVID-19

I sit writing in my new “office” looking out at the pastoral view that belies the chaos and uncertainty that is COVID-19. I know I speak for the NHPHA board when I extend gratitude and endless thanks to the front-line health care providers who are fighting this battle while lacking the equipment and resources to do so safely. Further, our thanks go out to our New Hampshire public health partners at the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) and local public health as they work tirelessly to track this virus, follow contacts, face the media, and put in countless hours working to lessen the effects of this pandemic and to plan strategically to address the needs of the people in our state.

As a former DPHS employee who worked to address the H1N1 and other statewide public health incidents, I have struggled with how NHPHA can be a valued partner in fighting this overwhelming challenge, until last week.

Following the lead of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, NHPHA is working with the New Hampshire Office of Health Equity and DPHS and a host of partners to identify some of the inequities faced by vulnerable and under-represented populations in the state in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end we virtually convened 30 stakeholders who work directly with such individuals to learn what the issues are affecting them. While not a complete list, we heard the following are issues of concern: disparities in accessing online education; food insecurity; housing insecurity; inability or fear to access unemployment, health care, and other public benefits due to immigration status; health protection of individuals in detention centers; need for mental health services; and increases in domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.

Our next steps will be to engage more partners in the discussion and prioritize issues that can be addressed through advocacy and systemic change within the confines of existing capacity and resources. Anyone interested in joining the discussion can contact me at [email protected].

21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge

We are excited to invite you to join NHPHA as we embark on the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge together! While the challenge does have a focus on food and food systems, the content is applicable more broadly. By taking the Challenge, made up of small daily email prompts delivered each morning from March 30 through April 20, we can all easily participate in this transformative effort at our own pace. Visit the FSNE Challenge website to register with your email address and contact us at [email protected] to let us know you’ve registered as we try to coordinate some discussions for our group during the Challenge so that we can apply what we are learning to our own work.

When: March 30-April 19, 2020

The link to register is here.

On a personal note, I must say I will miss seeing you all at our Annual Meeting this year. It is a time to connect with our public health colleagues old and new and always a time of cheer and validation of the work we do collectively. Thank you for your support as a member of NHPHA and for the important work you do as a public health professional in any capacity. It all matters!

Please stay home if you can, and stay well.

Best, Joan


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