Many racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States face poorer health relative to national averages. These inequities exist across the lifecycle among many in communities of color, beginning at birth with poorer birth outcomes and higher rates of infant mortality, persisting through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood with higher rates of chronic and infectious diseases, and culminating in shorter life spans.
Many different stakeholders must work together to eliminate these inequities, but few organizations exist that explicitly work to foster collaboration. To address this need, the National Collaborative for Health Equity (https://www.facebook.com/natlcollaborative) launches as a project of the New Venture Fund, with generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The California Endowment, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The National Collaborative will build and expand partnerships among the many public- and private-sector groups needed to advance the health equity movement, which seeks equitable opportunities for good health for all, and the elimination of racial and ethnic health inequities.
The mission of the National Collaborative is to promote health equity by catalyzing collaboration among racial equity advocates, grassroots and community-based organizations, researchers, public health professionals, and other key stakeholders. The project will connect research, policy analysis, communications, and activism to ultimately support policy, systems, and environmental change that addresses the legacy of racism, particularly its less visible–but more insidious–structural manifestations, and their health consequences. The National Collaborative will convene leaders to share innovative ideas, provide technical assistance to support multi-sector racial equity initiatives, and conduct research and policy analysis that supports on-the-ground activism.
The National Collaborative for Health Equity will be staffed by several former employees of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Health Policy Institute (HPI), which conducted research and policy analysis to advance health equity. The National Collaborative will initially conduct three initiatives:
- Place Matters, a national initiative designed to build the capacity of leaders and communities around the country to identify and address social, economic, and environmental factors that shape health inequities;
- the Advancing Opportunity for Boys and Men of Color initiative, which seeks to improve the health and life opportunities of boys and men of color, and which will reconvene the Joint Center’s Dellums Commission, a blue-ribbon panel focused on promoting life opportunities for this vitally important population; and
- the Advancing Equity in the Affordable Care Act initiative, which seeks to promote health equity as a key consideration in the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In conducting this work, the National Collaborative will continue to work with partners cultivated by HPI, including fellow W.K. Kellogg Foundation America Healing “Anchor” institutions (Advancement Project, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Demos, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Congress of American Indians, National Council of La Raza, National Urban League, PICO National Network, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, and Race Forward).
The National Collaborative will be a project of the New Venture Fund (NVF), a 501(c)(3) established in 2006, which conducts public interest projects and provides professional insight and services to institutions and individuals seeking to foster change through strategic philanthropy. NVF helps donors and social entrepreneurs launch new projects quickly and effectively, collaborate efficiently, and develop high-impact grant-making programs. NVF offers domestic and international grant-making services, executes donor-developed projects, and provides full fiscal sponsorship, including grants and contracts management for innovative public-interest projects. To date, NVF has run 270 projects across a range of issue areas, both domestically and abroad.
The National Collaborative will be led by Dr. Brian Smedley, formerly Vice President and Director of the Joint Center’s Health Policy Institute, and a nationally-known leader on health equity issues. In his six years at the Joint Center, Dr. Smedley raised over $17 million of grant funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many other sources. Prior to joining the Joint Center, Brian was a co-founder and Research Director of The Opportunity Agenda, whose mission is to build the national will to promote opportunity for all. He is also well-known for his role as Study Director of several Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports on minority health and health workforce diversity, including the landmark 2002 study, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. Supporting Dr. Smedley will be Deputy Director Carla Gullatt, who managed programs and resources at the Joint Center from 2002-2014, most recently as Director of Operations and Outreach of the Health Policy Institute. There, she oversaw the Institute’s budget and managed program staff. Four other professional staff who managed programs and initiatives at the Joint Center will join the National Collaborative.
“We are tremendously excited to support the National Collaborative for Health Equity,” said Eric Kessler, president of NVF. “The project staff has an extraordinary depth of experience and legacy to build upon as it works to create a healthier United States, one free of unjust health inequities that persist on the basis of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.”
“The National Collaborative for Health Equity thanks its early supporters, which include our long-standing partner the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment,” said Dr. Smedley. “We intend to provide the leadership and vision necessary to promote partnerships for health equity, allowing us to accelerate the progress that is being made, and bringing us closer to the goal we all share.”