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Her 30-year success is a direct result of her vision, creativity, and commitment to Chicago’s youth and communities of color.

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NCHE Receives MacArthur Foundation Grant to Leverage State Data to Improve Health Outcomes in Local Communities Seeking Health Equity

HOPE Initiative Data Key to Spurring Effort to Address Local Social Determinants of Health

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) today was awarded an $800,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to assist local jurisdictions in leveraging health data that can help mitigate racial inequities in health outcomes, especially in communities of color.

As the leader of the Health Opportunity and Equity (HOPE) Initiative, NCHE compiled comprehensive population health research, including disaggregated data on people of color across the country. Through state data, HOPE tracked 27 life and community indicators that shape health and well-being for families and individuals including social and economic factors, community and safety conditions, physical environment and access to healthcare.

The HOPE research, which was released last year on an accessible state-of-the-art platform, is a breakthrough because it creates a new narrative on health inequities and provides achievable pathways for states to eliminate health disparities. The HOPE Initiative changes the disparity narrative: instead of merely identifying health disparities, HOPE pinpoints where resources must be directed to make meaningful and lasting changes.

HOPE portrays an America that would be dramatically different if the impact of racism embedded in our society was eliminated and everyone experienced equal social, economic and health opportunities. For instance, 70 million more people would live in low poverty neighborhoods; 55 million more adults would live in households with a livable income; and 54 million more adults would achieve very good or excellent health.

“Our HOPE research delivers a narrative that compels corrective action at multiple societal levels,” said Dr. Gail Christopher, the NCHE executive director.  “It creates a new opportunity frame that brings actionable data and information to help states and the nation move beyond measuring disparities to compelling action to achieve health equity. Disparities during the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrate the urgent need for health equity.”

Dr. Christopher thanked the MacArthur Foundation for the grant that comes under their equitable recovery funding. NCHE prioritizes working in partnership with their expanding network of collaborating leaders and organizations committed to achieving health equity.  With the grant, NCHE will expand the impact of the HOPE research by fueling a campaign to advise cities and counties on how the information can be deployed to improve local health outcomes.

“Getting HOPE research into the hands of local change makers requires a collaborative strategy that unites regional, state and local capabilities, as well as private sector and non-profit energy and resources,” said Dr. Christopher.  “This project will leverage the millions invested in HOPE by helping to create the infrastructure needed to amplify this opportunity for achieving health equity in communities across America.”

The MacArthur Foundation project will organize infrastructure that includes NCHE staff and national networks; implementation of equity policies and practices and related accountability approaches in cities and counties; periodic publications and briefs disaggregated by race and ethnicity based on data from states; related webinars, blogs, technical assistance tool kits and resources for use by local leaders.

The grant is part of roughly $80 million in awards MacArthur announced today in support of the foundation’s Equitable Recovery initiative, centered on advancing racial and ethnic justice. The initiative is funded by MacArthur’s social bonds, issued in response to the crises of the pandemic and racial inequity.

“As we emerge from this moment of crisis, we have an opportunity to improve the critical systems that people and places need to thrive. Our systems and structures must be rebuilt,” said MacArthur President John Palfrey. “We are committed to ensuring that our response to the pandemic is focused on supporting the reimagining of systems that create a more just, equitable, and resilient world.”

Led by the NCHE, the HOPE Initiative is a collaboration with Texas Health Institute and Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Center on Society and Health. The HOPE Initiative was created and funded through grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Here are some of the findings that the MacArthur grant will empower states address:

“We will use the HOPE data to spur action addressing the social determinants of health in local communities,” said Dr. Christopher. “The HOPE Initiative is helping create a more just, fair and equitable pandemic recovery that helps address the effects of structural and systemic racism. “


Investing in Comprehensive Data is Critical to Achieving Health Equity

WASHINGTON – The National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE) today applauded the America’s Health Rankings Health Disparities Report as an example of health research that must continue to provide accurate data that is an important tool against health inequities devastating low-income and communities of color across the country.

The Disparities Report, which was produced by The United Health Foundation, found a strong link between educational attainment and health, noting that adults lacking a high school education face the greatest social, economic and health challenges. Households headed by individuals with less than a high school education have a poverty rate of 30.7%, which was six times higher than households headed by college graduates (5.2%).

“We learned from Covid-19 that incomplete health data is detrimental to communities that face health disparities,” said Dr. Gail Christopher NCHE’s executive director.  “The Disparities Report revealed important health trends that can be addressed, and lead to improved health outcomes. We must improve our knowledge of the health challenges faced in communities of color.  That was proven during the pandemic.”

A year ago, NCHE helped launch the Health Opportunity and Equity (HOPE) Initiative, a state-of-the-art platform supporting a new narrative on health inequities and providing comprehensive data on populations of color so it can be utilized as a critical resource for policymakers, as well as the medical and public health fields.

“The HOPE Initiative was groundbreaking research,” said Dr. Christopher. “The data has helped public health officials move beyond identifying inequities in communities of color to spurring action addressing social determinants affecting their health. But we can’t stop there.   The Disparities Report and other research must enlighten public health officials about the trends we often aren’t aware of until too late.”

The Disparities Report found persistent and growing disparities in maternal mortality. In 2015-2019, Black mothers (43.8 deaths per 100,0 0 0 live births) had a maternal mortality rate that was 3.4 times higher than Hispanic mothers (12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births). Between 2005-2009 and 2015-2019, maternal mortality rates increased 22% among Black mothers, from 35.8 to 43.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. But the maternal mortality rate also increased 55% for white mothers (from 11.2 to 17.3 deaths per 100,000 live births) and 23% for Hispanic mothers (from 10.3 to 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births) during this time period.

Further, the report found that deep and persistent disparities in mental and behavioral health have existed by gender, educational attainment and race and ethnicity – and have worsened for some subpopulation groups. The rate of depression was three times higher for multiracial (27.1%) and American Indian/Alaska Native adults (24.6%) and 2.5 times higher for white adults (21.1%) than Asian/Pacific Islander adults (8.6%). Despite performing better than other groups, Asian/Pacific Islander adults experienced the highest increase (23%) in the rate of depression from 7.0% in 2011-2013 to 8.6% in 2017-2019.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said, some progress was made in reducing the rate of severe housing problems. Between 2005-2009 and 2013-2017, households headed by Hispanic individuals experienced the greatest decline (11%) in severe housing problems, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander (8%) and Black individuals (5%). Despite progress in reducing the percentage of households facing severe housing problems, households headed by Hispanic (29.9%), Black (25.3%) and America Indian/Alaska Native (24.2%) individuals had a rate of severe housing problems roughly two times higher than households headed by white (13.4%) individuals.

“This is the type of health data that must continue to flow to policy makers and be leveraged for actions needed to achieve health equity,” Dr. Christopher said.

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