Local view: Un-Fair Campaign creates healthier organizations, communitiesSt. Louis County Public Health and Human Services became a partner in the Un-Fair Campaign for two reasons.
By: Ann Busche, for the News Tribune
St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services became a partner in the Un-Fair Campaign for two reasons.
The first is core to our operations. As part of our focus on customer service, we are committed to building a work force that reflects the people we serve. We can do everything right by recruiting and hiring people of color and by creating an inclusive, supportive work environment, but if the larger Duluth community does not have this same commitment to inclusiveness, we will not be able to retain the staff we hire. To continue this work internally, we have mandated the “Understanding White Privilege: A Key to Cultural Competence” training program for our entire management team. For more than 15 years the department also has mandated one training session per year for all staff on issues including diversity and cultural competency. This is training we are doing this year.
The second reason is core to our mission of creating a community where all people are safe and healthy. Many people of color experience a wide range of serious health issues at higher rates than do whites, including breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory illness. Researchers are finding that years of discrimination and racism play a role in health through factors such as restricted educational opportunities and employment, limited access to and bias in medical care, limited access to safe recreation and healthy food, residential segregation and chronic stress. These social determinants of health play a larger role in a person’s health than do genetic factors or personal behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol or being overweight. Recent data show that a person living in one specific area of Duluth can expect to live 11 years longer than a person living in another specific area of Duluth.
Ann Busche is director of Public Health and Human Services for St. Louis County.