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Scott Winn: Tools for Tackling Health Disparities

Scott Winn, MSW, explains how his Summer Institute course, Achieving Racial Equity in Public Health, can help professionals address health disparities and create racial equity.

Scott Winn, MSW, explains how his Summer Institute course, Achieving Racial Equity in Public Health, can help professionals address health disparities and create racial equity.

June 23, 2014

In 2002, the Institute of Medicine released a landmark report about differential access and quality in health care services, and the differences in life opportunities that contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in health. More than a decade later, public health and health care professionals are still struggling to address these gaps with systemic interventions.

Scott Winn, MSW, instructor and plenary speaker at the 2014 Summer Institute for Public Health Practice, is leading the charge with Achieving Racial Equity in Public Health, a new course to help professionals strengthen their understanding of how health disparities develop and what they can do to address them.

“Most public health workers know racial inequities exist across all indicators of wellness in our society. So often we only hear statistics and stories which can overwhelm us and create a sense of helplessness,” said Winn. “I want public health workers to leave this course with a strengthened understanding of the problem and a toolbox to take action.”

A Seattle-based community organizer with a commitment to social justice, Winn believes that teaching is an extension of his community-based work. “I teach in a way that encourages participants to strengthen their critical thinking skills and be motivated toward action,” said Winn.

He continues, “The word ‘education’ at its Latin root means ‘to lead out or bring forth that which lives within the human being.’ My teaching style supports students in bringing forth their own knowledge, experience, and brilliance.”

For Winn, the ideal course participant is someone who knows we have a problem regarding racial inequities and wants support in figuring out what can be done. “I want to strengthen our ability to know our roles in creating racial equity, be better able to form a team to further the work, and be better prepared to transform policies, practices, and procedures,” said Winn.

Winn explained that institutions are designed to deliver the racially inequitable outcomes we currently have, so transforming institutional policies and practices is a necessary first step to making change. To prepare for systemic change, course participants will practice using assessment tools like those available at racialequitytools.org.

When thinking about what motivates him to teach others, Winn says, “It is easy to get overwhelmed by the consistent and pervasive racial inequities that exist in public health outcomes. But, when we acknowledge the urgency and put resources behind our efforts, we can move toward equity. Most importantly, we cannot do this alone. We must do it together, collectively.”

For more information on this course or the instructor, visit the Summer Institute website. Registration closes July 1, 2014.

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