It’s great that ‘equity lenses’ is a concept that’s made it into wider use. Here’s one important question I’m going to suggest you keep in mind if you decide to put on equity lenses.
There’s a phrase I’m seeing crop up more and more in equity and health equity conversations, and it’s “equity lenses” or “health equity lenses.” And that got me to thinking, what does that mean? What do we mean “use health equity lenses?” So in this episode I’ll talk about one way I recommend thinking about using health equity lenses–one important question I’m going to suggest you keep in mind if you decide to put on health equity lenses.
Hi everybody, I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel. This is “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners. I’m a consultant, educator, and researcher, and yes–your organization can work with me. Courses + Action is a flipped classroom model where you and your colleagues learn what you need to know, on your own time. Then we get to work putting it into practice. Start with our Foundations of Equitable Communication course. Don’t just take courses, take Courses + Action. Visit h-cpartners.com
So right away I want to say I’m going to take the broader term equity. But I know a lot of people listening here are focused just on Health Equity, so I hope what I’m going to share will also be equally helpful. But of course, you know the first part of my career was in the education sector where we have been working on equity for my entire career. And I learned from people who have been doing it for decades before me. And they made very clear that their work was on the shoulders of many generations of largely minoritized people who have been working for equity in and beyond education. I’m also noticing that equity issues are emerging in the workplace more and more, and I’m here for that. So I’m going to try to support all of those conversations with what I’m sharing today. It’s also reflecting what I have learned over time.
So there’s been a long history on what equity means, and what Health Equity means. I feel like we should pause here for a second before we talk about Equity lenses. I’m not going to tell you what you should say Equity means or Health Equity. I’ve done an episode on that already. It’s important that we think hard about what it means. But I’m one of many people who suggest that even if we tried to impose kind of one true definition, it would be antithetical.
But once you have a definition, I also want you to let that definition evolve. So whatever you personally use, or whatever is being used by your organization right now, you should be able to let that definition evolve. Because your understandings of equity are also allowed to evolve over time. You’re going to learn more. You’re going to experience more. Things are going to happen in the world. And as these ideas collide, you may well change what Equity means to you. So that’s another reason why I’m going to say, don’t worry about getting one definition that’s always going to work and sticking to that like glue.
Now, there are many ways to take up Equity lenses. But I am going to go ahead and break this down in a way that I think will apply no matter who you are, and no matter how you understand Equity. No matter how you want to take up Equity lenses. And this is largely from working with the great clients I get to work with, learning from the great people I get to learn from, my own work, and the research. When people first want to act for Equity–maybe they’re putting on Health Equity lenses–there is understandably the impulse to do something. Like we need to do this. Now we want to create this, or add this. And I agree! Asking, “Where are there opportunities to do more?” I think that’s important. And we need to be asking those kinds of questions. There are definitely things we need to be adding on.
However I’m going to suggest that the folks who are really taking Equity to another level, the folks that I’ve had the great fortune to be working with and learning from, tend to also ask another question. In addition to asking “what you want to create or add?” They ask: “what do we want to take away?”
This is a tougher question, what do we want to take away. Because the answers can be humbling. The answers can be uncomfortable. What do we want to take away from what we are currently doing?
I’m saying “we” because this is a structural level approach. I’m talking about looking through equity lenses at taken-for-granted arrangements, practices, ways of working we’ve all inherited. Again I I learned this from great people, and I get to work with great people. And I think this is a big part of why I get to work with the folks that I do, because this is my Approach and people recognize that. And if you have been listening to this series for, I don’t know, at least one episode, you’ll understand that this is part of my Approach too.
For example, right now, we’re halfway through a four-part miniseries on communication and public health. And I’ve had the great pleasure of sitting down with Samantha Cinnick from Health Resources and services Administration. Samantha’s telling us her stories about her experiences as an early career public health professional, and what she is learning about communication. And in her interviews, as well as with all of my guests, there is an understanding that there are things we all could be doing better. Some of our inherited ways of working might unintentionally be working against us, against our Equity goals.
And in this show, and in my consulting and my research, I focus on two areas where this definitely happens: communication and education. We’ve got gobs of research to show how in communication and education there are loads of ways we get in our own way when we’re working for Equity. These systems, structures, Arrangements, practices that we’ve all inherited get in the way of our work for Equity. That’s why I’m really recommending this essential question for when you’re taking up Equity lenses that you include “what do we want to get rid of? What do we want to stop doing and maybe replace with something more equitable?”
We’re not asking these questions with the sense of beating ourselves up, but seeing the structural nature of so many of these obstacles to equity. In a sense we’re off the hook because we didn’t invent these systems, policies, practices, Arrangements. But we are on the hook for changing them once we realize that they’re in the way of equity.
The good news is we know how we know how to address these obstacles. It is not a mystery. It is not trial and error, folks. We know how to make it better. There are proven processes, and this is really good news.
As a consultant and researcher over the years I have learned about and witnessed many obstacles to equity in communication. So I’ve taken some of the most common and put them together in one of my courses plus action. It’s called Equitable communication. Folks in your organization take the course–that’s the course part. And then when everyone’s done we have a 1 hour live group meeting for follow through– that’s the plus action part. If you’re interested contact me Anne Marie a n n e m a r i e at h-c partners.com or you can visit health communication partners and click on contact. This has been 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners audio engineering by Joe Liebel. Music by Joe Liebel and Alexis R.