In 2014, an inspiring day-long summit led to creation of the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network (WMHEN). WMHEN is a collaboration of partners, including MPHA, from diverse fields working together to address the social determinants of health. Harnessing the power of collaboration, WMHEN is building and strengthening local leadership through sharing of resources, information, and ideas, all of which is crucial to combating the root causes of health and economic inequity. MPHA is proud to be a member of the WMHEN Steering Committee, which is led by Risa Silverman of UMass-Amherst. Now, 18 months after its creation, here’s an update on WMHEN’s accomplishments and plans.
The WMHEN Steering Committee identified four “branches” for regional effort: Cross-Sector Collaboration; Racial Justice; Community Data; and Policy Priorities.
Cross-Sector Collaboration – The WMHEN formed a cross-sector leadership team to better address the many social and economic factors that influence health. The team is currently working with a coach from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to identify meaningful goals for the four branches. The leadership team has representatives from planning agencies and community development corporations as well as advocates for affordable housing, public transportation, food security, and public health.
Racial Justice – With support of the UMass-Amherst SPHHS, the WMHEN will be hosting an online landing page for Racial Justice Work in Western Massachusetts to help community-based organizations, students and alumni find and share information.
Policy Priorities – In the spring of 2015 nearly 200 people participated in a policy priority selection process co-led by the WMHEN and MPHA. Then, WMHEN members worked with MPHA to provide timely advocacy efforts on the shared priorities. Another Western Mass Health Equity Policy Assembly will take place this spring.
Community Data – WMHEN instigated a partnership for information technology graduate students at UMass-Amherst to create a data grid for Springfield, MA, to help make public health data and information more accessible to everyone.
What’s Next for the WMHEN?
4/6/16 – We’re in This Together: Building a Culture of Health Equity in Western Massachusetts
WMHEN hosts a cross-sector forum to learn about and discuss a soon-to-be completed community health needs assessment, an upcoming community health improvement plan (CHIP), and RWJF’s 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.(Contact Risa Silverman if you’d like to be involved.)
4/8/16 – A Regional Legislative Breakfast on Health Equity (Contact Risa Silverman if you’d like to be involved.)
5/6/2016 – Western MA Policy Priority Selection Assembly (Contact MPHA Field Director Andrea Freeman if you’d like to be involved.)
Autumn 2016 – 2nd Western MA Health Equity Summit (Contact Risa Silverman if you’d like to be involved.)