Washington County is committed to reducing and eliminating health disparities and working to achieve health equity, where everyone in our community has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. To do this, we need to acknowledge that historical and current social, racial, economic and environmental inequities result in negative health outcomes. They affect communities differently and have a greater influence on health outcomes than individual choices or access to health care.
Helpful terms and definitions
To guide and inform our work in health equity, Washington County Public Health (WCPH) uses the terms and definitions in our Glossary. These definitions help us understand and use common terms when discussing diversity, equity and inclusion. Among other things, the glossary includes definitions for health equity and health disparities and explains the difference between equality and equity.
Achieving health equity means addressing longstanding social and racial injustices and working in partnership with others to realize this goal. Following is some of the partnership work happening in the Public Health Division.
2020-2023 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)
The Washington County CHIP is a community plan for action that defines how Washington County Health and Human Services and community partners come together to improve health equity and address priority health issues.
The foundational goals for the CHIP are to:
- Reduce health disparities.
- Improve health equity.
- Apply a racial equity lens and trauma-informed principles to the CHIP structure and work.
The work of CHIP is guided by the CHIP Leadership Team, which is made up of community partners and carried out through five committees. This work is also supported by an annual community grants program that provides funding to community-based organizations (CBOs) whose work aligns with the CHIP goals.
Addressing health equity through community partnerships
Community partnerships are the foundation of WCPH’s efforts to improve health equity. Many of our CBO partners have strong relationships and a deep understanding of the strengths and needs of the communities they serve. WCPH has relied on, supported and lifted up the wisdom of CBOs through many of our grants, programs, committees and COVID-19 response efforts. We recognize this work is ongoing and know we still have a long way to go in our efforts to build partnerships to support health equity. Here are some examples of partnerships that have improved health equity for our community:
Isolation and Quarantine Support – WCPH contracts with several CBOs to provide culturally appropriate and language-specific services for households in isolation or quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes help with housing, groceries and utility bills.
Vaccine Outreach and Education – WCPH will invest over $2 million in community grants to CBOs serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations. Although these grants have a focus on vaccine outreach, education and access, they also include support for other programs to address the financial, social and mental health impacts of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Racial Equity Advisory Group – Formed in February 2021, this group provides opportunities for partners to give input on county decisions related to COVID-19. The group is made up of over 30 CBOs serving BIPOC communities. They have provided guidance on vaccine distribution and communications strategies, as well as distribution of vaccine funds and planning for American Rescue Act funds.
For more information about WCPH’s work around health equity, please contact Genevieve Ellis.