What is Equity-Centered Policy?
Equity is about identifying, reducing, and eventually eliminating social, economic, and environmental conditions that disproportionately face marginalized communities (all of which greatly impact our health and life expectancy). Equity is the vehicle in which we can strive to achieve equality. Equity-centered policy is effective policy.
Equity-centered policies are laws and policies that are created, implemented, and enforced in consideration of quality evidence and the lived experience of the communities most impacted by the issues that the policies and laws aim to address.
It requires genuine engagement, consideration, and leadership of disparately-impacted communities throughout the policy/lawmaking process. It is especially important (and not yet common enough) to consider the intersectionality of groups, or understanding that certain groups represent multiple marginalized identities that experience inequity individually and collectively (e.g., Black, women, disabled; Black women; Black and disabled; disabled women; Black disabled women). Focusing on the impact, consideration, and involvement of most-affected people in policymaking is necessary to identify problems early on, avoid unintended consequences, and produce creative and efficient solutions.
The Center for Black Health & Equity believes that the process of reaching health equity and equity generally requires investment in community infrastructure, growth of community capacity, and the infusion of equity throughout the policymaking process.
The Truth Be Told Toolbox includes a combination of resources for community change agents seeking to understand the power and importance of storytelling for educating others about equity-centered policy.
The mission of the Equity-Centered Policies Unit is to build on The Center’s capacity and ability to identify, develop, and discuss what it means to center equity in existing and new policy work. The Unit’s work will connect a variety of subject areas and to Black health through policy.
The ECP Unit is supported for grant-specific work by the Office of Minority Health and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation but also works to create our podcast, policy briefs (coming soon), and ECP resource library (coming soon).
Our goal is to connect Black health to a variety of other issue areas that to some may seem unrelated. Our health and life expectancy is impacted by the environmental, economic, and social conditions of our lives. We want people to understand that even improving equity in “non public health” areas advances health equity, and that advancing health equity requires us to consider and improve lives in these “non public health” areas.
What’s public policy's role in equity?
Laws and policies are essential tools for supporting and improving lives, as they can assign access, rights, protections, and liberties. They reflect, reinforce, and shape social norms and community values. In the United States, law and equality have not gone hand in hand. Public policies reflect and address historical, deeply embedded anti-Blackness, racism, ableism, misogyny, and other inequity in laws and systems. Racism, for example, is the foundation of the country’s founding laws and systems, legalizing disparate treatment of some people and creating unfair advantage for others. This has always been shown to “sap[ ] the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”
Creating, amending, or replacing public policy that not only avoids inequitable policy outcomes from the past but also repairs them is key in reconfiguring the systems and and rules that intentionally, recklessly, and neglectfully caused inequities, leading to disparately lower quality of life, more negative experiences, poor health outcomes, and shorter lives.
What’s the impact?
Public policies and decisions made at the local, state, and federal levels can and do make a notable difference in peoples’ lives. This includes:
Changing regulations that allow for more people to access affordable, safe, and healthy housing;
Requiring insurance companies to expand coverage for certain health care services to previously-ineligible customers;
Passing a school policy that limits punitive enforcement of certain non-violent offenses;
Re-zoning an area to protect it from predatory development plans and better ensure community-desired planning;
Prohibiting the sale of harmful, unsafe products (e.g., menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products) in a city.
As the saying goes: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Anyone can get involved in equity-centered policy. All you need is your story. In the coming year, the ECP Unit will release “Truth Be Told," storytelling resources for equity-centered policy change. This tool will help communities engage in policymaking in an accessible way through our training and toolbox. These tools can support discussion on a variety of inequities that impact the health of individuals and their family, friends, and community.
Examples: elder care (e.g., food bank delivery, racial differences in nursing home residents’ quality of life), court systems and policing (e.g., police brutality, access to competent legal representation), child development (e.g., early education, access to childcare, youth counseling services, the school-to-prison pipeline), housing (e.g., quality and access, home ownership and appraisal rates), income (e.g., poverty, minimum wage), social services (e.g., child welfare system), and health care (e.g., maternal health, equitable vaccine distribution).