OCHD uses Government Alliance on Race and Equity's (GARE) six-part strategic approach geared to address all levels of institutional change to outline our work to date:
Use a racial equity framework: Jurisdictions must use a racial equity framework that clearly articulates our vision for racial equity and the differences between individual, institutional, and structural racism—as well as implicit and explicit bias. It is important that staff—across the breadth and depth of a jurisdiction—develop a shared understanding of these concepts.
Operate with urgency and accountability: While it is often believed that change is hard and takes time, we have seen repeatedly that when we prioritize change and act with urgency, change is embraced and can occur quickly. The most effective path to accountability comes from creating clear action plans with built-in institutional accountability mechanisms. Collectively, we must create greater urgency and public will in order to achieve racial equity.
Build organizational capacity: Jurisdictions need to be committed to the breadth and depth of institutional transformation so that impacts are sustainable. While elected leaders and other top officials are a critical part, change takes place on the ground. We must build infrastructure that creates racial equity experts and teams throughout local and regional government.
Partner with other institutions and communities: The work of government on racial equity is necessary but not sufficient. To achieve racial equity, government must work in partnership with communities and other institutions to achieve meaningful results.
Implement racial equity tools: Racial inequities are neither natural nor random—they have been created and sustained over time. Inequities will not disappear on their own; tools must be used to change the policies, programs, and practices that perpetuate inequities.
Be data-driven: Measurement must take place at two levels— first, to measure the success of specific programmatic and policy changes, and second, to develop baselines, set goals, and measure progress towards goals. It is critical that jurisdictions use data in this manner for accountability.
What does this look like at OCHD?
Normalizing Conversations around race and equity
- Caucusing: The Health Department has two affinity groups, the white caucus and the people of color caucus. These voluntary groups usually meet twice a month.
The people of color caucus meets to build more meaningful, equitable relationships with each other, to deepen our analysis of systemic inequity, particularly regarding racism in the U.S. and to process our experiences of oppression & internalized inferiority, moving towards healing.
The white caucus meets to examine and deconstruct their internalized racial superiority, to develop a deeper awareness of the power, privilege, and property they have access to in a racialized society in which they are members of a dominant culture, and to hold each other accountable. They work to recognize, wrestle with, and dismantle white systems and institutions of power and privilege.
- Book Club: A book club was formed in 2018 to read great works of fiction and non fiction, with a priority of reading authors of color. Examples of books read include: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
- Field Trips: The Triangle is filled with rich assets that document and uncover our racial history. Members of REC started organizing field trips to visit and explore these assets. The first trip was to the Stagville State Historic Site in February 2020. Future sites include the Pauli Murray Project and the UNC Black and Blue Tour.
Organize: Build organizational capacity and partner with other institutions and organizations
There are a number of programs and projects within the health department that have equity at the core:
- Racial Equity Commission: Started in 2017, the mission of REC is “to serve as a catalyst to ensure that racial equity is an active agent throughout all organizational processes of the OCHD.” Goals of REC include:
- Increase participation of staff in racial equity training and conversations
- Create a racially equitable environment within OCHD
- Support and encourage the use of affinity group caucusing
- Cultivate continuous departmental conversations around equity
- Create formalized supported systems for those burdened by racism
- Develop racially equitable programs and policies for OCHD’s work in the community
- Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE): Orange County Government, Town of Chapel Hill, Town of Carrboro, and Town of Hillsborough have become members of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE). The health department is happy to be in alignment with the county’s efforts. These local municipalities are working to:
- Develop a shared racial equity analysis
- Understand the role of government in relation to racial equity
- Establish norms and relationships among employees and community
- Increase skills analyzing policies and practices from a racial equity perspective and communicating about race
- Visions, Inc.: OCHD is also part of Orange County Government’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts conducted by Visions, Inc. The County has:
- Created a DEI Leadership Team representing a diverse and inclusive team to aid in the ongoing progress of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training and champion the importance of an inclusive work environment.
- Required employees to participate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training. The purpose of this training is for employees to be comfortable in identifying previously unconscious biases and misinformation within themselves and in others and to recognize personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural barriers to inclusion and to provide skills to employees to equip them to facilitate change toward creating a more supportive environment of inclusion in the workplace.
- Family Success Alliance: Started in 2014, the mission of FSA is “through collaboration on shared goals, connect families in poverty to resources and uncover their power in driving equity and systems change.”
- Healthy Carolinians of Orange County: Healthy Carolinians of Orange County (HCOC) is a network of agencies and citizens partnering to promote health and wellness in Orange County. Members of HCOC are representatives from schools, human service agencies, churches, civic groups, businesses, local government, UNC Chapel Hill, health care organizations including UNC Healthcare, and concerned citizens.
- Health Equity Council (HEC): is a group of community residents and organizations that action steps to advance health equity, address social determinants of health, reduce health disparities and implement the CLAS Standards, There are no barriers to health and wellbeing based on race and culture for anyone in Orange County.
- Community Health Assessment: Led by Healthy Carolinians and conducted every four years. The overall goal of the community health opinion survey is to address health disparities and identify needs of populations who are most disadvantaged.
- Racial Equity Strategic Plan: REC led the department in creating our first ever four year racial equity strategic plan.
- Racial Equity Glossary: Part of the Racial Equity Strategic Plan so that we can all learn and agree on a common language and terms for talking about race and health equity.
- Health Director’s Resolution Declaring Structural Racism as Public Health Crisis: On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, the Orange County Board of Commissioner’s adopted a resolution condemning the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, MN. The resolution was brought forth by the Orange County Human Relations Commission. It included a statement from our Health Director, Quintana Stewart declaring that “structural racism is a public health crisis in Orange County”, stating that “it creates a cycle of injustice against people of color leading to trauma which ultimately affects health.”
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