How we can begin to find peace in 2021

As we enter 2021, many of us are wishing for peace in the new year. Wishing isn’t enough. To achieve peace, the noun, we need peace to be a verb. The Black Lives Matter movement tells us how to do this: No justice, no peace; know justice, know peace.

The new year provides a fresh opportunity to ask why we have pervasive inequities and how can we best align our resources to promote communities that thrive both in health and economically. Here are three places to start our journey toward peace:

1. Consider why we have disparities and the impact those disparities have on our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to demonstrate how our individual health is connected to the well-being of the community and our economy. Collective responsibility and care for our neighbors undoubtedly make our communities thrive. Yet, 2020 highlighted the disparities that too many live with daily. Black men and women, people with disabilities and chronic conditions, and those who are incarcerated, for example, don’t just suffer the disproportionate physical effects of COVID by chance. They suffer because of chronic underinvestment in our communities, education systems, jobs training, and restorative justice programs.

The COVID long-haulers will be more than those with lingering physical concerns. They will include those who have suffered unemployment, overdue rent and mortgages, food insecurity, widened education gaps, and more. These conditions disproportionately affect people of color, single parents, and those with physical and mental disabilities and will cause generational impacts to our workforce and the vitality of our communities. Because these disparities are rooted in policy decisions and funding priorities, we cannot expect equity in recovery without policies and decisions that are intentionally designed to protect and advantage the groups of people that have been historically marginalized.

By better understanding the root causes of these disparities, we can begin to create changes needed to improve the health of all Iowans.

2. Ask how we can better align our resources to address these disparities.

When making a decision, we must pause to ask the questions: “Who does this decision benefit?” “Who does it harm?” “Who was not considered or consulted?” and “How can it be improved?”

Health Equity Impact Assessments are policy-making tools that use data to answer these questions before final decisions and financial allocations are made. Decision makers should work closely with Iowa’s public health experts to ensure that we amplify the positive, mitigate the negative, and maximize the investment of Iowa taxpayers in systems that will create prosperous communities that benefit everyone.

2020 has given us the opportunity to recognize and act on the root causes of disparate health and economic achievement we see across Iowa, such as poverty, racial inequality, education gaps, food insecurity, and lack of access to health care. Undoubtedly, there are both immediate needs and systemic injustices that must be addressed. It’s easier and feels more heroic to address the immediate needs. But if we don’t fix the systems that contributed to the need, we will have wasted the lessons of 2020 and missed this unique opportunity to strengthen employment, reduce poverty, and expand prosperity for all Iowans.

3. Invest in public health.

Iowa's public health professionals have the skills, relationships, and the passion to help lead the effort toward equity. What they don't have is sustainable, predictable, and flexible funding. Local public health departments serve as Chief Health Strategists within their community. In this role, they build the cross-sector partnerships needed to address Iowa's pressing health equity issues, including mental health, obesity, access to care, and more. Pervasive problems require persistent action. Investments in our public health system allow for the action necessary to create a healthy and equitable Iowa.

Now is the time to act

Ultimately, we have a choice. We can act on the injustices that have become all too visible OR we can “return to normal.” We cannot do both. By simply returning to normal, we will know neither justice nor peace.

Join us in advocating for justice. Learn more about Iowa Public Health’s advocacy priorities here.

Photo caption: Lina Tucker Reinders and family marching for equity in Des Moines, summer 2020

Related Issues & Ideas

Website

Make It Okay messaging in multiple languages

View Make It Okay messaging in multiple languages
Article

8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits

View 8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits
Article

Building a Trust-Based Philanthropy to Shift Power Back to Communities

View Building a Trust-Based Philanthropy to Shift Power Back to Communities
Website

Frameworks Institute: Changing the conversation on social issues

View Frameworks Institute: Changing the conversation on social issues
Website

Framing best practices with Topos Partnership

View Framing best practices with Topos Partnership
Report

Systems Change & Deep Equity

View Systems Change & Deep Equity
Website

Iowa Coalition for Collective Change

View Iowa Coalition for Collective Change
Report

Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa

View Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa
Report

Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health

View Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health
Website

National Academy of Medicine

View National Academy of Medicine
Website

Grant Makers in Health

View Grant Makers in Health
White Paper

Understanding the Upstream Social Determinants of Health

View Understanding the Upstream Social Determinants of Health
Report

Addressing Patients' Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for Provider Investment

View Addressing Patients' Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for Provider Investment
Report

Innovations in Health Equity and Health Philanthropy

View Innovations in Health Equity and Health Philanthropy
Website

Centers for Disease Control

View Centers for Disease Control
White Paper

Prenatal Strategies to Support Families

View Prenatal Strategies to Support Families
Report

2020 One Economy: The Blueprint for Action

View 2020 One Economy: The Blueprint for Action
Policy Brief

Strengthening Medicaid

View Strengthening Medicaid

Central Iowa youth drive change for better health

uVoice high school students commit to learning about and addressing issues, including vaping and racial justice, in central Iowa.

View Story
View Story

The Dream Cube: Art for Social Impact

The Dream Cube, a monolithic structure constructed of pillows piled 8-feet high, popped up in downtown Des Moines late last fall. The provocative piece sparked conversations about the potential of our youth—if they have a safe place to dream.

View Story
View Story

How Youth Are Driving Community Efforts to End Homelessness

dsm Magazine features a unique collaboration that is engaging youth who’ve experienced homelessness in identifying new solutions to address this issue in central Iowa.

View Story
View Story

A New Approach to Supporting Youth in Juvenile Detention

Teenagers in jumpsuits lying on yoga mats, their eyes closed, their bodies still. This is the image Megan Hoxhalli describes as remarkable for juvenile detention, a place where youth arrive shaken, dysregulated, and scared about their future.

View Story
View Story

Planning from strength: questions to ask your team

Advocacy
Apr 26, 2021
View Post

Preparing yourself to center the voices of those impacted by issues

View Post

Vision vs. Tactics: How we can achieve the change we want to see

Action planning
Feb 22, 2021
View Post

System-change achievements advocates are making for central Iowa’s kids

View Post

Disconnection matters

System change
Nov 24, 2020
View Post

3 questions to reshape your policy agenda

Advocacy
Oct 30, 2020
View Post

What you should know about homelessness in central Iowa during the pandemic

Community response
Oct 26, 2020
View Post

Leading system change, even in times of uncertainty

System change
Jul 22, 2020
View Post

We must all do our part to be anti-racist

View Post

Lessons in preventing burnout

View Post

5 barriers pregnant women in poverty face in getting the care they need

View Post

What I've learned about system-change work during this time of crisis

System change
Jun 11, 2020
View Post

What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about system change

System change
May 10, 2020
View Post

We have the resources to build a better food system here in Iowa

View Post

What we should do about COVID-19 racial disparities in Iowa

Advocacy
May 6, 2020
View Post

11 best practices for working from home during COVID-19

Leadership
Apr 8, 2020
View Post

5 things you must know about migrant farmworkers in Iowa

Community response
Mar 30, 2020
View Post

4 ways to understand weight stigma and promote a healthier community

View Post

5 lessons learned in building the village of support for early-grade reading

View Post

How we can increase everyone's access to quality foods

View Post