RWJF Interview with King County PLACE MATTERS Team: Institutionalizing Equity

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PLACE MATTERS is a national initiative of the Joint Center, designed to build the capacity of local leaders around the country to identify and improve social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health. Interviews with six of the PLACE MATTERS teams were featured last week in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s NewPublicHealth blog. Follow along as we post excerpts throughout the week on why #PlaceMatters is key to eliminating health disparities.

Below is an excerpt from the Martin Luther King, Jr. County, Washington PLACE MATTERS team:

“When we started Place Matters, the project was about racism, and as you might guess that’s not a word that a lot of people are comfortable with,” she said [Ngozi Oleru, director of the King County Health Department Environmental Health Services Division and King County Place Matters team leader]. “So we started out naming it equity and social justice to begin to meet people where they are, and as part of our growth we’re getting to a point now where we’re actually able to use the word racism.”

Oleru explains that last fall an exhibit on race came to Seattle. The county council went to see the exhibit together and then two weeks later held a public meeting on racism.

One critical thing the team has tried not to do in its work is to create a check list and check things off as if to say, “we’ve done it, we’re through.” Oleru said the county, at all levels, is making a conscious effort to have equity embedded “for this to be the way we work and not just something we do after we’ve done something else. We want this lens to be second nature.”

Click here to read the full interview.

Morgan McLeod is the Program Assistant and New Media Strategist at the Joint Center


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