How You’re Supporting Health Equity | Impact Newsletter | June 2021

Last updated: June 1, 2021, at 4:24 p.m. PT

Originally published: May 24, 2021, at 9:04 a.m. PT

YMCA Health Equity Mission Forum

When it comes to the mission of the Y, there is no more central aspect than advocating for and designing programs that afford our community the chance for equitable access to whole person health. On March 31, we hosted the Spring Mission Forum, moderated by YMCA of Greater Seattle Board Member Dr. Robin Martin, with panelists Dr. Tumaini Coker and Dr. Ben Danielson. This event was a community conversation to learn about the deep inequities built into healthcare and community services that prevent people of color, people living below the poverty line, LGBTQIA+ people, and other historically oppressed groups from receiving the best possible care for their whole person.

“If we’re thinking about just that health equity part, we might be thinking too narrowly. When you think about your conception of health, it’s about your health and about your ability to live well. So when we talk about terms like health equity or social determinants of health, we’re really talking about the social determinants of being able to live in a way that is satisfying.” Dr. Coker said. The term health equity misses the bigger picture of all of the intersections that determine a person’s health: family and community relationships, access to play and exercise, ability to pay bills, safe housing, educational systems, access to food, and more.

When we talk about community trauma, one part that is often left out is the trauma felt collectively, in Black, Brown, and Asian families who have experienced, or are fearing hate-based and racially motivated violence. “Our young people are experiencing incredible trauma.” Dr. Danielson said. One aspect of healing these wounds is increasing access to behavioral health services, “But we aren’t even there yet. We’re at ‘stop traumatizing kids with new things.’” Dr. Coker adds. “We punish kids and punish them harshly for the trauma that we gave them.” in reference to the ways in which poverty and other social determinants almost ensure kids will enter the criminal justice system.

“How many generations are impacted by this traumatizing and retraumatizing?” Dr. Danielson asks. The answer is almost all generations of marginalized groups have experienced the trauma of racism, hate crimes, gender-based violence, lack of access to healthcare resources, and other struggles in systems of oppression within our society.

The question Dr. Danielson asks all of us is, are we listening to these communities in the way we say we are, or the way we want to be? This means elevating the story, “beyond any budget line, stories are what’s most important.”

The conversation then turned to what the Y is doing to combat the effects of social inequalities and therefore health inequality by building programs designed to support whole person health, which means we recognize that each person's wellbeing is influenced by physical, mental, social, spiritual, and community factors, shaped by their individual life experiences and needs across the lifespan.

The key to solving health inequities is through collaboration. We can’t do it alone, and neither can any doctor, counselor, or individual. To reverse these trends, we must collaborate. From our individual selves, to our families, workplaces, organizations and governments, we must all shoulder our portion of the work.

“What we’ve heard tonight,” Jeff Rainy, Chief Health & Social Services Officer said, “shows us that dismantling systemic racism is not going to be easy, there will be many twists and turns, but at the Y, we have committed to this journey.” We can’t achieve this alone. We can’t do it without supportive thinkers and doers like Dr. Martin, Dr. Coker and Dr. Danielson, but we also can’t do it without your support. Your continued investment in the Y is what makes this critical work possible, thank you!

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What is Whole Person Health?

Whole Person Health recognizes that each person’s wellbeing is influenced by physical, mental, social, spiritual, and community factors, shaped by their individual life experiences and needs across their lifespan.

Learn more about Whole Person Health.

Category: Impact Newsletter