Health Equity, President's Update, Systems Change

Trusting communities, imagining possibilities

Dear Partners and Friends,

As a relative newcomer to Georgia I have loved spending the last 18 months learning and coming to a deeper understanding of the diverse cultures and people that make up our state. 

Last month, I attended the Latino Community Fund’s 9th Annual Latino Summit & Forum, which featured the results of the “2023 Status of Latino Health in Georgia” report (published in Spanish and English).

The Initiative is proud to have supported this research, commissioned by the Latino Community Fund and conducted by an all-Latina research team from Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine. The report provides a brief history of Hispanic / Latino people (we are using “Hispanic / Latino” in keeping with the terminology in the report, which comes from U. S. Census Bureau terms) in Georgia, reviews key demographic trends, uses qualitative and quantitative research to discuss the health of Hispanic / Latino communities, and provides a brief set of recommendations for policy-makers.  

More than 10% of Georgia’s almost 11 million residents identify as Hispanic / Latino, making them the third largest racial and ethnic group in the state. The report covers a number of topics that present critical opportunities for systems-change that will enhance the collective health of these communities. But perhaps more importantly, themes emerge from the research that can give us insight into how the Hispanic / Latino community might choose to redesign systems so that they appropriately incorporate cultural and community traditions into care. 

One of those themes, and one which has given me much to reflect on, is a beautiful and deeply interwoven commitment to community. During the Summit, Gigi Pedraza pulled out a statistic on overcrowded dwellings which highlights this commitment: “Our homes are crowded because we do not let our family or our neighbors go unhoused. We bring them in.” This tradition of community support represents a cultural strength, an asset, part of a historically relevant way of life. In the face of systems that have led to a lack of safe and affordable housing, the Hispanic / Latino community is demonstrating a culture and tradition of community support that we all can learn from while we work together to create safe, stable, and affordable housing for all communities through systems change.

image © Latino Community Fund

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting on this perspective shift and I invite you to join me. Join me in imagining… What might the structures and systems that support health look like if they drew on the incredible advances we have made in modern medicine AND the deep cultural traditions of communities? What would be possible if we embraced the custom of taking in your neighbor when they are in need, honoring (and supporting) the sanctity of deeply personal care provided by neighbors and family? Models for doing this exist and are thriving in community – how can we center them in an authentic and honoring way? How do we create a system that embraces the “both/and” of community wisdom and modern science?  

As cooler weather arrives, I invite us to recognize that – while sometimes modern medical care is the best treatment– other times VapoRub, caldo de pollo, and a back rub from mom are exactly what we need to know that we are loved and we will be well again. Each of us has a deep human need to feel loved and cared for, a need that could and should be acknowledged by the systems that have been built to support our collective health and prosperity. Georgia is more diverse than ever. As we learn from each other, support each other, and include each other, we have an opportunity ahead of us to lead the way and create a Georgia that works for everyone.  

Wishing you a sparkling holiday season and a 2024 full of possibilities, 

Kristy Klein Davis