Insights for Change

We Fulfill our Commitment to Equity by Beginning the Crucial Conversation

By: Paul H. Dworkin, MD

It is time for communities across the country to begin the crucial conversation – a dialogue about what it truly will take to bring about equity for all populations in health care and in society as a whole.

We must eliminate racial disparities that date back centuries in this country. In order to do that, we need to acknowledge the structural and systemic injustices that continue to hold certain populations back and establish a course of action to bring about change.

At Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office), we recently started this crucial conversation and plan to continue the dialogue in the months and years ahead.

Our Crucial Conversation

I was so pleased to learn of the scheduling of a Lunch & Learn session for team members of the Office entitled, “An Introduction to the Courageous Conversation™ About Race Curriculum” for several reasons.

The session was part of our ongoing professional development activities, which we reinvigorated to address a decrease in our staff engagement. We feel planning convenings that engage our leaders and staff on topics of strong relevance to the Office and its focus on advancing children’s optimal health, development, and well-being is so important in demonstrating our support for our staff.  Offering professional development on such critical contemporary issues as equity is essential to achieving our ambitious goals and elevating the status of Connecticut Children’s as a critical community resource.

Secondly, we have publicly committed to advancing equity by acknowledging such barriers as structural and systemic racism in our organizations and our behaviors. In fact, we pledged to be much more purposeful in our efforts to achieve equity in our concluding remarks at our annual Help Me Grow National Forum last spring in Buffalo, New York. This Lunch & Learn session enabled us to reaffirm our collective commitment with our program leaders and staff.

Thirdly, while we recognize the importance of acknowledging issues and committing to address them, the specific methods to achieve our goals are not always evident. This learning session introduced the agreements, conditions, and tools available to enable a rich, interracial dialogue about race. We must engage in such crucial conversations if we are to be successful in our work.  The session afforded me the opportunity to reinforce our commitment to enhancing the capacity of the Office and its Help Me Grow National Center to advance equity and address racial disparities in our communities by elevating the voice and impact of the families we serve.

Lessons from the Session

We recognize that structural racism continues to be a major barrier to achieving health equity. We appreciate that promising strategies to address this include focused efforts to engage and amplify the voices of community residents, identify the strengths and assets in communities, and target resources and metrics that directly address equity. This crucial conversation must inform these efforts.

The high quality of the session and the knowledge, passion, and commitment of the extraordinary speaker, Ingrid Canady, executive director of the State Education Resource Center, could not have been more impactful. Ms. Canady is such an inspirational leader of educational equity and excellence in our state. While intended as an introduction to a possible full-day workshop, the session was so valuable on its own merits and stimulated a universally positive response to a query as to whether attendees are interested in a more in-depth experience.

I am grateful to all who contributed to the success of this session by attending, participating, and sharing their enthusiasm for continuing our important efforts. I look forward to next steps in continuing this crucial conversation and fulfilling our commitment to advancing equity at the Office. I encourage other organizations in healthcare and other sectors to do the same. Nothing is of greater importance to our work and those we serve.

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Paul H. Dworkin, MD is executive vice president for community child health at Connecticut Children’s, director of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health and founding director of Help Me Grow National Center. Dr. Dworkin is also a professor of pediatrics at UConn School of Medicine.  Learn more »

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