Everyone in the United States should have a fair chance to lead the healthiest life possible. Where we live should not determine our health, the health of our children, or how long we live, and yet, it is predictive. As you work to improve health in your community, be sure to focus efforts and priorities on those who are experiencing conditions that limit their opportunity to be healthy. This doesn’t mean offering everyone the same resources. Instead, it’s about creating conditions that will ensure all can realize the same health outcomes. For example, consider three children of different heights trying to view a baseball game over a fence. Offering them all the same size bench to stand on would mean that the shorter children will not have a fair chance to see over the fence. Offering each child a bench to stand on that is the right size for their height gives all children a fair chance to see over the fence and allows everyone to participate in the activity together.
Use your state’s Health Gaps Report to raise awareness about where large numbers of avoidable deaths occur in your state and what drives differences in opportunities to be healthy across the state. Using the What Works for Health strategies listed in your Report as a starting point, work with your state’s leaders to choose policies and programs that have been effective for improving health in other places and that are a good fit for your state.
- If there are examples of effective and sustainable ways your community is addressing health gaps, publicize those stories so that others in your state are inspired to take similar action. By focusing on policy, systems, and environmental changes – or implementing programs in a broad, systematic way – communities across your state will see the most substantial improvements over time.
- As a way to begin talking about health gaps in your community, use the Health Gaps Report Discussion Guide to introduce conversations with diverse stakeholders. The Guide includes tips for facilitating small and large group discussions, discussion starters, and tools for identifying causes of health gaps.
- To further shine a light on gaps at the local level, refer to the Digging Deeper section of the Using the Rankings Data tool to identify sources of data beyond those provided in your county-level snapshot. Find out what types of sub-county and/or demographic data are available for your state in the Finding More Data section of this tool. (Find Using the Rankings Data under the Health Rankings drop down menu on the orange navigation bar.) Work with community leaders and members to help share individual stories that bring these data to life.
Addressing health gaps effectively requires the early and continued involvement and empowerment of community members who are most affected by poor health outcomes. Community leaders and residents bring important contributions including knowledge of the community, key contacts and resources, potential partners, existing assets, and potential barriers. Ensure that everyone—especially those disproportionately affected —has a say in identifying and prioritizing health needs and that they have support for working collectively to address these needs and barriers.
The process of establishing relationships and building trust within a community can take several years. If you do not already have relationships with a community, meet with leaders in the community to respectfully seek their advice and offer your support as an ally. Use Building a Contact List to identify people you already know who can introduce you to key leaders in the community. Work with these leaders to build an agenda for better health that meets the needs of the community.