The last two years have demonstrated the overwhelming disparities in health outcomes in our county, with the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on our Latinx and BIPOC community. The pandemic exposed the interconnectivity of our health, living conditions, income, work environments – the social determinants of health, among others – like never before, with impacts that resonate even as infections decrease.
This is not to say that there are not many wonderful, dedicated professionals and organizations in our county working to alleviate the gaps in health outcomes, among them Health Action. Health Action, founded amidst another critical moment for healthcare in our county, formed as an advisory body to the Board of Supervisors in 2008.
Over the past 14 years, Health Action has formed a deep, collaborative, countywide network of service providers and leaders in government, education, hospitals, and more. Together, they spearheaded numerous impactful initiatives, including “It’s Up to Us” to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and “Cradle to Career” that, among other accomplishments, helped to bridge the digital divide in the early days of remote learning during the pandemic for students without access to appropriate technology or Wi-Fi connections.
Health Action also formed a series of local action chapters throughout the county, among them, in the First District, the Sonoma Valley Collaborative, to address specific regional needs.
In February of this year, Health Action officially charted a new path under the working title Health Action 2.0. The intention is to transition Health Action into an even more community focused, and less county driven, entity. Health Action will function as an independent entity outside of the county organization.
This is a welcome transition, and I am grateful to the Health Action team for their ability to be nimble, innovative, and responsive to community needs. With this change, Health Action 2.0 will still maintain a strong partnership with the county and cities, as well as their hospital and education partners.
This shift follows the release, in January, of the Portrait of Sonoma County 2021, and update to the first Portrait of Sonoma County from 2014. The update, which looks at health outcomes for Sonoma County residents at the nexus of health, education, and income via the Human Development Index (HDI), revealed that HDI for Black and Asian residents in our county has decreased over the last seven years. While the HDI for our Latinx population has increased over the same timeframe, it is still markedly lower than the HDI of the white population.
Needless to say, while the Portrait shows improvements in some areas, new strategies must be engaged to continue dismantling the inequities experienced by different racial and ethnic groups in Sonoma County.
Health Action 2.0 is built on an aspiration statement: “A Sonoma County where a person’s skin color, zip code, or place of birth does not determine their health, education, or income.” Its goals are data driven and deeply informed by the Portrait of Sonoma County 2021. Health Action 2.0 is, however, just at the start of its transition and reading this, you may wonder, what’s next? Health Action 2.0 is launching an equity focused, community engaged process to develop an Agenda for Action, to be released later this year. Please stay engaged in this process, that will support transformative, grassroots, local-level action, and visit the Health Action website for information and updates.