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Press Release  Department of Public Health launches health equity plan to address racism as a serious public health threat

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  • Department of Public Health

Media Contact   for Department of Public Health launches health equity plan to address racism as a serious public health threat

Omar Cabrera, Manager of Ethnic Media and Community Outreach

Boston — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has launched a strategic plan to advance racial equity in all the work DPH undertakes and oversees, providing an action-oriented roadmap to address underlying concerns that have perpetuated health inequities across the state. DPH’s plan recognizes the pervasive and destructive impact of racism on health and centers racial equity across all its work, programs, practices, and initiatives, from the Department’s efforts on emergency preparedness and response to strengthening the public health workforce to modernizing the public health infrastructure and enhancing public service.  

The Strategic Plan to Advance Racial Equity is a call for action and accountability to address the systemic inequities faced by people who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latino and/or Asian or Pacific Islander, seeking to acknowledge, transform, and improve the public health outcomes of all people in Massachusetts.

“From day one, I’ve instructed our administration to apply an equity lens to everything they do. I’m proud of DPH for taking an intentional approach to health equity and outlining strategies to address racial disparities in particular,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Together, we can create a stronger, healthier and more equitable Massachusetts.”  

“With our statewide efforts to eliminate racial, economic, and regional disparities in health outcomes, we are not just addressing health inequities – we're rewriting history and shaping a future where every person receives the care they deserve, regardless of their race or background,” said Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll

“Let me make this crystal clear: Racism is a serious public health threat in Massachusetts,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD, as he announced the strategic plan at last week’s Public Health Council meeting. “Sadly, racism is embedded in our institutions, policies, and practices. Its ubiquitous presence has created disparities in health care, education, housing, and employment.” 

Commissioner Goldstein pointed out that DPH sees the effects of racism in its work every day, whether in the devastating severe maternal morbidity rates among Black birthing people, or in the high opioid-related death rates in Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities, or the impact of problem gambling on high-risk individuals.  

“We know that fighting and eliminating racism is hard – really hard,” said Commissioner Goldstein. “It will take a bold action-oriented and clear roadmap that lays out the steps that all of us across DPH must take.” 

The DPH Strategic Plan to Advance Racial Equity embraces the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s commitment to elevate racial justice and equity as a guiding principle for agency operations, policymaking, and organizational development. It engages DPH as a lead agency for the secretariat-wide health equity strategy within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. 

The plan calls for, among other objectives: 

  • Implementing a data equity framework to address health inequities in Massachusetts reflected in all future key online dashboards and reports, including data disaggregated by race and ethnicity;  
  • Supporting all-staff participation in a Racial Equity Training Series with the goal of 85 percent of managers and 60 percent of non-managers completing training;  
  • Improving DPH’s procurement systems, where all Request for Responses include a community engagement component in the design process, where appropriate; and  
  • Establishing a DPH Cultural Assessment/Racial Equity Staff Survey that will begin to measure what constitutes a collaborative and equitable culture that allows staff to fully participate and belong.  

The plan also commits DPH to developing a competent, compassionate, and diverse public health workforce in ways that support health and well-being, build capacity to lead a racial-equity-centered approach to health equity, and enable recovery and resilience. Within this plan, DPH advances equity and resilience in the public health workforce through strategic recruiting, hiring, retention, professional capacity building, and resilience. Specific objectives include: 

  • Using equitable practices to recruit and hire candidates with relevant educational, work, lived experience, and expertise addressing racial inequities in health, across all roles within DPH; 
  • Increasing retention and reduce attrition within DPH, with an emphasis on retaining staff with experience and expertise addressing racial inequities in health and increasing racial diversity among senior leadership and managers; and 
  • Increasing the DPH workforce capacity to lead with and act on the principles and practices of racial equity, with a particular focus on developing capacity and accountability amongst senior leadership and managers. 

The strategic initiative is led by the inaugural Assistant Commissioner for Health Equity, Dr. Hafsatou Diop, MD, MPH. It was the product of collaboration, feedback, and qualitative analysis among 110 people internal and external to DPH selected for their expertise in racial-equity-centered public health. 

“Massachusetts is a leader in health equity conversations and what is happening in the Commonwealth now will have a ripple effect across the country as states continue to embrace health equity as a foundational public health strategy,” Dr. Diop said


Media Contact   for Department of Public Health launches health equity plan to address racism as a serious public health threat

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