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2018 Leadership Institute Scholars Apply a Health Equity Lens to Leadership Challenges

At the August Leadership Institute onsite, scholars addressed interconnected topics such as health equity and communicating about sensitive issues.

At the August Leadership Institute onsite, scholars addressed interconnected topics such as health equity and communicating about sensitive issues.

August 21, 2018

At the August 8–10 onsite session of the 2018 Northwest Public Health Leadership Institute (NWPHLI), scholars gathered with faculty and guest presenters for interactive learning opportunities on topics such as change management, systems thinking, and communicating about challenging and sensitive public health topics. Scholars also worked on individual leadership plans and shared feedback with one another about leadership projects they are developing at their home agencies.

A panel on health equity set the tone for the onsite on its first day, reflecting the Leadership Institute’s focus on equity and health across the life course. The panel featured Sheila Capestany, MPH, MSW, King County Strategic Advisor for Children and Youth; Abigail Echo-Hawk, MA, Director of Urban Indian Health Institute; Ka’imi Sinclair, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor at Washington State University, and Victoria Gardner, EdD, Med, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the UW School of Public Health.

Panelists reflected on the urgency and tough decisions that public health leaders face in addressing health equity, such as having to choose between securing grant funding or challenging foundations to take a more equitable approach. Gardner reminded scholars to be advocates for communities—not just gatekeepers—in working to advance equity, even when advocacy requires being uncomfortable. Echo-Hawk emphasized the importance of using epidemiological methods that reflect the health status of smaller populations, such as American Indian/Alaska Native communities, and of working with communities respectfully. “Don’t come to our community because you think we have the most problems. Come to our community because you think we have the answers,” said Echo-Hawk.

With these insights, scholars, faculty, and presenters applied an equity lens to conversations and presentations throughout the onsite. “I have never participated in any professional or educational program which keeps equity at the center of focus as consistently as NWPHLI. This program is openly trying to address public health inequities at their roots,” said scholar Bradley Klos, MSPH, MCH Epidemiology Unit Supervisor at the Washington State Department of Health.

Hot weather and lingering smoke from wildfires around the Northwest were ever-present reminders of some of the challenges public health leaders are increasingly facing in changing times. Discussions and presentations reflected the urgency of these challenges. Mary Kay Chess, PhD, who is also an instructor in NWCPHP’s Public Health Management Certificate program, presented on organizational systems and systems thinking. Meredith Li-Vollmer, PhD, MA, Risk Communication Specialist from Public Health – Seattle & King County, discussed strategies for communication about sensitive and challenging public health issues. Laura Porter, co-founder of ACE Interface, spoke on applying knowledge about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to public health leadership. With Tao Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, former NWCPHP director and NWPHLI faculty, scholars discussed styles of change management. Anahi Macchiavelli, JD, and Barbara Menzel, MS, addressed conflict resolution.

Applying what they learned from these topics and their work in teams between onsite sessions, scholars completed a problem-based learning (PBL) case on safe consumption sites, focusing on strategic communication and community partnership. This culminated in a “mock town hall” activity, representing a meeting with community members about opening such a site. Two visiting subject matter experts, Ashraf Amlani, MPH, a candidate for mayor of North Vancouver, BC, and Francesca Collins, MPH, Project Program Manager at Public Health – Seattle & King County, attended this activity and shared feedback with scholars. Both are graduates of the UW School of Public Health Community-Oriented Public Health Practice (COPHP) program.

After continued distance-based learning and projects in the coming months, the final onsite session will take place November 5–7, 2018. With an election falling in the middle of those three days, as well as transitions in scholars’ own organizations, scholars and faculty are already thinking about how to apply and build on the change management skills emphasized at the August Leadership Institute onsite.

To view photos from the Leadership Institute August 2018 Onsite, please visit our Facebook album.

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