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Partnering for Health Equity: Interview with Daniel E. Dawes, JD

posted Apr 27, 2018, 2:54 PM by daniel yoo
Photo of Daniel E. Dawes, JD
Attorney Daniel E. Dawes is a nationally recognized leader in the health equity movement and has led numerous efforts to address health policy issues impacting vulnerable, under-served, and marginalized populations. Mr. Dawes is the co-founder of the Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network (HELEN), a national network of health equity champions in virtually every state and territory and a partner of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA). Mr. Dawes is also the executive director of health policy at Morehouse School of Medicine, leading the institution's health policy initiatives and serves as Senior Advisor and General Counsel to the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. He serves as the series editor of the Johns Hopkins University Press special multi-disciplinary book series, Health Equity in America, and the author of a forthcoming book, The History of Health Equity in America, which will also be published by Johns Hopkins University Press. In this blog post, we interview Mr. Dawes about the health equity movement and partnership for health equity.

1. Why is HELEN partnering with the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) and its regional health equity councils (RHECs) and other NPA partners?

I fondly remember the convening on health disparities that led to the creation of the NPA. The NPA framework and its focus on community-driven solutions and multi-sector collaboration is setting the stage for the health equity movement. For instance, RHECs engage leaders and leverage expertise within regions to inform and encourage action for health equity.

At HELEN, we aim to create a national network of policy leaders that leverages and expands on the goals and work of the NPA, RHECs, and other NPA partners. Across the nation, many policymakers who are not involved with the NPA are not really familiar with health disparities and the health equity movement. Leveraging technology, HELEN creates a safe space to share information about strategies to address health disparities and promote health equity for policymakers who care about this issue, no matter their political stance. HELEN also helps leaders and scholars across the nation to collaborate and advance the health equity movement. For instance, with our interactive map of the US, if scholars need to quickly touch base with leaders in New Mexico, they can send a message asking them what they have been doing to address health equity. Also—in a library populated with policies on health equity, complementing the work of the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), an NPA partner—we are tracking what every state has done to address the social determinants of health (SDoH) and health equity.

At HELEN, we want to make sure our activities are in line with the NPA and complement the work of RHECs and other NPA partners. For example, we are currently thinking about how to align our work with the five priorities of the NPA, with a focus on the fifth priority, as we are trying to encourage leaders to use a health equity lens for their policies and programs. HELEN and the NPA can bring together leaders to coordinate efforts, as we don’t have time to waste when it comes to addressing health disparities across the nation.

2. What is your vision for how HELEN and the NPA can move forward together to mobilize a nationwide movement to combat health disparities and advance health equity?

First, it’s important to create an inclusive environment to move the needle toward health equity. We need to recognize that everyone has a perspective that can add tremendous value, and we want everyone to feel welcome in this movement, no matter their background or political stance.

Second, strengthening public-private partnerships and working with nontraditional partners will be necessary to address the SDoH that have a significant impact on health and health equity. For example, we can engage with the banking industry to determine what policies can expand economic opportunity that has health impacts. Similarly, it will be important to partner with leaders from environmental health, housing, transportation, education, and other sectors that enact policies that can promote health equity.

Last, we need to make sure we help people to see the big and narrow pictures of why health equity matters, balancing comprehensive views and narrow views. Some people can see why ensuring that all Americans have good health matters. Others have expert knowledge of specific policies and interventions to promote health equity. We need people to be adept at adopting both a bird’s eye and specific view when it comes to addressing health disparities and achieving health equity in the US.