The conference aimed to bring together a diverse group of individuals, organizations and systems representing government, business, health, faith, and community-based leaders/organizations to discuss factors that impact the health of families and communities; highlight current efforts that address such factors; and to further engage in partnerships going forward that strive to center equity in their organizational policies, programs and services.
Those in attendance gained knowledge in the following areas: 1) Identify social determinants of health and their impact on the health and well-being of families and communities; 2) Develop a shared language and broader understanding of equity; 3) Increase awareness of community initiatives that address social determinants of health and promote equity; and 4) Identify opportunities for partnerships and participation in local efforts to strengthen our collective impact.
The special guest speaker for this event was Debra Farrington, Deputy Secretary and Chief Equity Officer with the NC Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Farrington gave a presentation on Advancing Equity and Inclusion in Public Health. Also, Dr. Sushama Pradhan and Lorna Withrow also with NC DHHS, Environmental Health Section discussed wastewater/ water systems. Dr. Susan Auger, Auger Communications focused her presentation on resilience, connections/relational health, and healing.
In speaking of her experience participating in this conference, Ms. Farrington stated, “I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. It was well-organized, inspiring, and informative. I met some wonderful people and have such great respect for the impactful work you all are doing.”
Panel discussions showcased local initiatives that incorporate equity such as Homelessness/Housing Instability, COVID-19 Prevention, Access to Care, Behavioral Health (mental health, substance use disorder) Services, Environmental Justice, Access to Healthy Foods, Community Remembrance Project (social justice), and the Hope for Healing Summit (a faith-based dialogue on racial healing). Other topics included the effects on health outcomes due to social determinants of health, childhood trauma, health and racial inequities. Participating speakers included Francisco Solano, AMEXCAN; April Williams, Warren County Schools; Rev. Philip Sharp, Warrenton Church of Good; Crystal Smith, Warren County Cooperative Extension; Alfred Richardson, Bright Ideas Project Team; Wenona Mills, Warren County Health Department; Terrell Alston, Eastpointe LME-MCO, Larry Harper, Helping Our People Escape (HOPE) Recovery Program; Rev. Dr. Mark Wethington, Warren Ministries United; Rev. William Kearney, Warren County Environmental Action Team; Mary Somerville, Warren County Community Remembrance/NAACP; Rev. Cathy Alston Kearney, Hope for Healing Project.
In addition, the conference featured a resource fair of local agencies/organizations, medical and behavioral health providers which included HOPE Regional Medical Center, Eastpointe LME/MCO, Holt Assessment Services, Freedom House Recovery Center, NAACP, and Working Landscapes. The day ended with a stirring call to action given by Rev. Dr. Tony Cozart, Pastor of Cooke’s Chapel Baptist Church and member of the Warren County Advancing Equity Council.
According to Dr. Margaret Brake, Health Director, “The conference was well received based on the feedback from the evaluation surveys. 96% of respondents found the content presented at the conference was very or extremely useful and all gained knowledge from attending.”
Participants have indicated that they would like to continue to work on local equity initiatives in the following areas: 1) Healthy Food Access, 2) Environmental Health Action Team, 3) Community Engagement, Reconciliation, Racial Equity and Healing, 4) Youth Community Engagement and 5) Behavioral Health Recovery and Support Services.
If you are interested in participating in any of these efforts to improve the health and well-being of children and families in our community, please contact Rhonda Mushaw, Health Education Supervisor, Warren County Health Department at (252) 257-1185.