By Emily Smith, Health Promotion Manager, Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA)
The death of George Floyd in 2020 sparked worldwide protests and renewed conversations about police violence, lasting structural racism and what both individuals and organizations need to be doing to effect change. I found myself thinking about how this movement related to my role addressing well-being for an organization dedicated to job safety and health benefits for laborers and their families. One way I knew I could apply this new perspective was taking the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion to the next level by taking stock of how race was presented in our health education materials.
If this is something you’ve been considering at your organization, here are some steps that might be helpful:
- Material Review: Even if you have been discussing racial health disparities, see if there is space for refinements and enhancements. Following current guidelines, information, research, and data might help you develop new strategies and solutions. This is apparent in how the COVID-19 pandemic brought light to ways we can better discuss and address both racial and ethnic health disparities.
- Research Strategy: When conducting research, it’s important to use a variety of sources in order to establish a well-rounded viewpoint and broaden your perspective. Obtain qualitative and quantitative data from government (.gov), education (.edu), and nonprofit organizations (.org). Also, examine scholarly journal articles. Don’t discount editorials and blog posts from notable figures in the field. Gather as many reputable sources as possible to paint an accurate picture and eliminate bias.
- Outline Approach: Start by writing a one-page summary about how the social determinants of health play a role in the disproportionate health risks for racial and ethnic minority groups related to your organization. This starts with how health plays a role at home and in the community where you live, work and play. Consider the factors beyond individual behaviors that contribute to health:
- Biological and genetic factors that account for some health outcomes, such as inherited conditions and carrying certain genetic markers.
- Conditions related to where we live, learn, work, play and grow that can be further out of one’s control because they are shaped by the environment, social structures, health services and the economic system.
- A lack of opportunity and resources (equality vs. equity), which often equates to a lack of choice and access and might worsen health outcomes.
- Next Steps: Take your findings and apply them to your existing materials. Find ways of revising them that broaden their usability. Additionally, consider developing materials that cover organizational strategies for creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment. This type of work environment will be beneficial to employees and employers alike; as trust is instilled, unique talents are celebrated, and innovation emerges.
Advocating for these enhancements and expanding your materials needs to be embraced by leadership and partners at local and regional levels to be fully effective. Then stay current and curious on ways of continually improving your well-being offerings.
To ensure that the work is being done by credible professionals that are knowledgeable on the most up to date multicultural competencies and tools, consider enrolling in the National Wellness Institute’s six-week online certificate course Wellness that Works: Beyond DEI.
By examining my role as a well-being professional and taking action to address existing needs in the health education materials, we are producing materials that better reflect today’s issues. This could help you ensure that your organization authentically aligns with its mission and commitments.