With a spotlight on improving health and social outcomes in communities as "Rhode to Equity" applications stay open until May 21, we recently interviewed Carla Wahnon, Manager of Integrated Health Community Health Team at East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP), one of two teams participating in the Rhode Island Diabetes Health Equity Challenge. Her team worked with Well-being and Equity in the World coaches to improve health equity in East Providence. Her team, “Produce to People: Green Beans and Healthy-in-Between” has a long-term goal of reducing the number of community members experiencing food insecurity through policy changes and a short-term goal of expanding fresh produce at EBCAP food pantries.
What motivated EBCAP to “take the Health Equity Challenge” and participate during COVID-19?
This is the work I have always wanted to do and this work is what EBCAP is all about: we provide clinical care and our CHT supports people at highest risk of poor outcomes. Our HEZ supports building community solutions. We are fortunate to also be a Community Action Program (CAP) with access to a wealth of resources and knowledge from our social service program including our director of social services who manages our food pantries and family advocates.
One of the foundational principles of the Pathway to Population Health (P2PH) tools is that it is informed by a team member who has "lived experience." How has having a person with lived experience made a difference in your work?
Jamie has been so important to our work. She is the person on the team that could help us understand the challenges of using the SNAP program, of being able to pay for, access and use healthy foods and why she wanted to help her family not develop diabetes. She keeps us on target.
How have the P2PH framework, tools and coaching been helpful to you?
As one of our team members would say, improving health equity is a “big, audacious goal” and where do you start? It can be overwhelming. The tools helped us get started. Our team also had to make the commitment to meet weekly, assign responsibilities and do the work. We also needed the support of leadership who understood that this work was important and that we would have the time to meet as a team.
What advice do you have for teams that might be considering applying for “Rhode to Equity”?
Even though our team members are all from the same agency, we still needed the time to get to know each other, to understand what each of us did and could bring to the table and learn how to work together. Getting to know each other, and building relationships takes patience and is an important part of the process. It is also worth it.