News  |  August 21, 2018

The environment in which people live, work, and learn has a profound impact on health, but policies and programs that shape environments generally fall outside the jurisdiction of health agencies. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) Office of Health Equity (COHE) is testing a variety of strategies to build buy-in for using a health in all policies (HiAP) approach to address equity across state agencies and lead to sustained improvements in the social determinants of health.

Using a working definition and characteristics of innovation in public health, and with funding from PHNCI, COHE is advancing its HiAP approach by using synergistic strategies, including: forming a Colorado equity alliance comprised of multidisciplinary partners working on “win-win” initiatives; harnessing the power of data to decrease inequities; leveraging state dollars to support local policy change on the social determinants of health; spurring cross-disciplinary networks by hosting the first statewide Equity Forum; and piloting a “Power Matters” workshop for state government leaders on sharing decision-making power with community stakeholders.

Due to the significant influence of social determinants of health, one cannot advance health equity without advancing equity in transportation, education, housing, and other areas. COHE hosted the first statewide Equity Forum in April 2018 to bring people together who are working to advance equity in the fields of housing, education, health, criminal justice, parks and recreation, environment, transportation and land use, philanthropy, and community mobilizing. The Forum was a call to action to break down silos and use an equity lens in decision-making about programs, policies, and practices. Many attendees felt the event was a great way to connect with people outside their typical networks and felt equity was an important topic on which to focus. Ninety-two percent of attendees were overall satisfied with the Forum.

[It was beneficial] connecting with other organizations that are working to create opportunities for the members of their communities. It was amazing to see the various departments all having the same overall goal. Participant, Equity Forum
Co Equity Action Guide

COHE, in partnership with community organizations and other state agencies, developed a Colorado Equity Action Guide that looks at the root causes of inequity through an in-depth review of community characteristics, stories, and numbers. COHE wanted to catalyze change on multiple levels, including the way state government thinks about data collection and dissemination. It was also important to highlight the importance of factors outside traditional health, such as transportation and housing, in shaping the health of a community. Finally, the Guide relies heavily on graphics and visuals to make the information more accessible in an attempt to increase data democracy. Evaluation data is still being collected, but the Guide has already presented additional opportunities for cross-disciplinary partnerships. For example, partners and news outlets are asking COHE staff for perspectives on the connections between gentrification, displacement, and health.

Thank you... thank you... thank you for digging deeper, explaining things in a format and voice that it compelling and easy to understand, listening to communities, and thinking beyond the traditional definition of health. Stakeholder Feedback, Equity Action Guide Survey

COHE continues to partner with other state agencies to advance health and equity. This includes participating in planning efforts for the State Outdoor Recreation Plan (led by the Department of Natural Resources) and the State Transportation Plan (led by the Department of Transportation). Similarly, partners from disciplines outside of traditional health are sitting on the state health assessment advisory committee. In September 2018, COHE will build upon existing work to formally convene an Equity Alliance.