Leadership Insights: Communicating to Connect

By Joann Yoon Kang, Vice President of Strategic Communications

One facet of my life that shapes my identity is the fact that I’m a child of immigrant parents. Born and raised in Ohio by parents who both immigrated to the U.S. from Korea in their 20’s, I’ve seen the ways in which language and communication can cultivate a sense of belonging, and the ways in which it can perpetuate a sense of othering. Living a bilingual existence—in English and Korean— has grounded within me an inherent sense of the importance of communication.  

Having recently joined as the new VP of Strategic Communications, I feel both the privilege and the tug of responsibility to ensure that the strategic communications function here at Georgia Health Initiative effectively moves us—the collective us—toward greater health equity in all regions of our state. All of us here at #TeamPossible appreciate communications for what it is. Simply stated, employing the science and the art of communication allows for human beings to connect with one another. It’s easier said than done, of course, but this connection is what we strive to cultivate each time we communicate.  

To that end, we take care in how we go about the work of communications. We will use our voice, and elevate the voices of others, to talk about the things that matter and will be intentional in our approach. We will put people first, recognizing that what individuals and communities face in their everyday lives—hopes and aspirations in addition to challenges—are what we need to share. We will be mindful of the words and phrases that we use. We will develop our messages thinking from the perspective of those who are reading and listening, versus prioritizing the perspectives of we who are writing and speaking. We will employ good design principles when creating our materials, knowing that graphic design is a tactical way to improve clarity in communication.  

We also will support other communicators within our shared ecosystem, including health journalists. Health journalists help to make up the civic backbone of our state and play a critical role in ensuring that timely, factual, and accurate information is shared and made widely available. Their collective work allows for greater connection and an enhanced opportunity for each of us to experience our shared sense of humanity. We therefore are pleased to support organizations such as the Association of Health Care Journalists, Capital B News, Kaiser Family Foundation, and WABE. Especially as we acknowledge that this week (April 11-17) commemorates Black Maternal Health Week, the Initiative is pleased to sponsor WABE’s local coverage on Maternal Health and Mortality. This critical reporting project will explore the many facets of maternal health here in Georgia. Their stories will not only share how maternal health impacts families and communities throughout our state, but also community solutions that can be employed to address harms and promote health.  

We at the Initiative view communications as a change tool that is integrated within and throughout our strategic framework. We employ communications as a way to “call people in” to join the broader body of collective work in advancing health equity. Doing so is far from easy, but it is a north star that’s worth striving for. And all tools in our shared toolbox, communications included, must be put to full use to support us all in our striving.