Health Equity is Focus of Oregon Public Health Week

A series of panel discussions, presentations, films, story sessions and more will dig into public health topics focused on closing the health equity gap in underserved and unrepresented communities in Oregon. 

Oregon Public Health Week is an opportunity to promote the state’s public health systems, provide networking and education for public health professionals and highlight timely public health issues. It is a part of National Public Health Week.

Community members can join public health professionals in a weeklong series of events April 2-6 in the first-floor conference rooms at the Portland State Office Building, 800 N.E. Oregon St., Portland. Limited metered parking spaces are available in an adjacent lot. Public transportation is encouraged. All events are free and open to the public. No registration is required. View the complete schedule on the Oregon Health Authority website at http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/SPOTLIGHT.

Not all Oregonians have the same health opportunities. A 2016 assessment of the state’s public health programs found that 55 percent of Oregonians live in areas with significant health service gaps. Additionally, one third of Oregon communities have limited or minimal public health programs. During Oregon Public Health Week, Oregon Health Authority and its partners are addressing how to close those gaps and to make health opportunities more equitable.

“This year we focused on health equity and cultural responsiveness to better address health equity and disparity across the state,” said Christy Hudson, policy analyst, Public Health Division, Oregon Health Authority. “For instance, we know that communities of color disproportionately shoulder the burden of health disparities.”

What is health equity? Here’s how Oregon Health Authority defines it: “Health equity exists when all people can reach their full health potential and are not disadvantaged from attaining it because of their social and economic status, social class, racism, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or other socially determined circumstance.”

Oregon Public Health Week’s schedule of almost 30 events kicks off Monday morning with a workforce equity presentation by Ben Duncan, Multnomah County’s chief diversity and equity officer, who will talk about “the relationship of health disparities and root causes of health inequities: racism, discrimination, lack of power.” He emphasized that disparities need to be addressed not only in the community, but also in the workforce. “We have an obligation to practice the principles and values of equity behaviors,” Duncan said.

Duncan’s presentation is one of five that will be livestreamed. View the 10 a.m. Monday livestream at bit.ly/BenDuncan.

A Tuesday afternoon panel on gender identity and adolescent health in Oregon will look at the Oregon Healthy Teen Survey, which Hudson called “one of our strongest data sources for understanding the health needs of teens in our state.” In 2017, survey questions were added to better understand health behavior and experiences among transgender, gender non-binary, genderqueer, intersex/intergender and gender fluid students. The panel will discuss how they developed the gender identity questions, how the survey findings can be used in developing policy and programs and initial observations about students who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.

A Thursday afternoon panel will discuss how Oregon’s immigrant communities have been impacted by two 2017 bills, Reproductive Health Equity Act and Cover All Kids. Panelists will share best practices for engaging immigrant communities in policy making, program design and implementation. View this livestream event from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday at bit.ly/Policytopractice/.

Oregon Public Health Week wraps up Friday afternoon with a series of health equity story sessions modeled after StoryCorps. Public health professionals, community partners and family members will share their stories about health equity and inclusion. The stories will be recorded on audio and shared digitally on Oregon Health Authority’s website.

Hudson of Oregon Health Authority added, “Locally and across the state, we are working to ensure all Oregonians have access to healthcare. We have a lot of work to do in regards to cultural disparity. There’s a lot of interest to bring people together to talk about this. If we’re really going to address these disparities, we need to let our communities lead.”

Learn More:

What: Oregon Public Health Week

Sponsored By: Oregon Health Authority

When: April 2-6, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Portland State Office Building, 800 N.E. Oregon St., Portland.

Cost: Free; no registration required.

To view the complete Oregon Public Health Week schedule: Visit http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/SPOTLIGHT.

For more information about Oregon Public Health Modernization, visit the Oregon Public Health website at http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/About/TaskForce/Pages/index.aspx.

View the findings of the 2016 Public Health Modernization Assessment here: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/ABOUT/TASKFORCE/Documents/PHModAssessmentFactsheet.pdf

Susan Parrish is a freelance journalist based in Eastern Oregon. Reach her at [email protected].