When Communities Lead, Positive Health Outcomes Advance

We must learn and understand our collective history as a culture to get to the root cause of the racial disparities.

This post originally appeared on Every Child Thrives | W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is reposted here with permission by the author and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read the original post here.

For many of us working in public health and health equity, COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color—while disheartening—is not surprising. These inequities have existed for a long time.

At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), we look to ensure that all children and our families have access to high quality health care. Health equity is foundational to everything WKKF supports. It is a critical link to our efforts in early childhood education and economic development, as well as in racial equity and leadership. Until we have a solid core of public resources available to promote and advance health equity, it will remain a focus for the Kellogg Foundation.

We have learned over the course of last year that unstable systems cannot survive a crisis. When our health system is unstable, our other systems become unstable. It is the work of our organization to pull our health systems together to advance outcomes for children and families.

We must learn and understand our collective history as a culture to get to the root cause of the racial disparities. Health inequities have been happening for the entire existence of our society. We must fully understand what has been done, what has been tried, what has succeeded and how some of the disparities that we face are so embedded in our systems—that it will take a concerted effort to unravel.

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Yet, we have strong community and public policy leaders. This is the time, this is the moment and these are the people. We all need to work together to address the root cause for these disparities and actively work to change them.

Racism is a public health issue. We don’t always talk about it in that context, but when you think about the outcomes that communities are experiencing and why they’re experiencing them, racism is part of that root cause.

As philanthropic leaders, we have an opportunity to actively dismantle these systems and bring voice to those who don’t always have a seat at the table, to amplify and leverage resources that are available. And most important, to hold people accountable to make the change that we want to see in our lifetime, to start something new for future generations.

Communities lead when we recognize that the inherent value of their culture, language and experiences are fundamental to helping dismantle racial and health disparities. When we dismantle false and harmful paradigms to support communities, together we secure better health outcomes for everyone. For all children to thrive, the cultural strengths communities bring to the table cannot be ignored.

To highlight the urgency of these issues, the Kellogg Foundation is sponsoring a special supplement of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice that examines the policies, processes, and systems rooted in racist ideologies, which have directly impacted the health and well-being of marginalized communities. Mary T. Bassett serves as guest editor and leads the issue with an editorial describing two events in 2020 that triggered outrage around the world and brought the concept of structural racism to the forefront. Naoko Muramatsu and Marshall Chin describe the escalation of discrimination against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic and the long history of Asians being “invisible” in the United States. A commentary by Christen Johnson presents best practices for mitigating the effects of structural racism on the social determinants of health and thus, health disparities. Other articles look at data sharing, community resilience, perspective transformation, and much more to address structural racism, foster equity, and improve population health. You can read the entire issue for free on the JPHMP website:

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Read Public Health Interventions to Address Health Disparities Associated with Structural Racism.

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Author Profile

Carla Thompson Payton
Carla Thompson Payton is vice president for program strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in
Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, she supports the foundation’s efforts to promote thriving
children, working families and equitable communities.

Thompson Payton provides leadership and management for the creative and strategic direction of
programming from design through implementation, evaluation and dissemination. As a member
of the executive team, she is also responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the
foundation.

Prior to joining the foundation in 2012, Thompson Payton was deputy director of the Office of Child
Care at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services in Washington, D.C. There, she was responsible for developing national early childhood
education policy, managing the $5 billion annual budget of the Child Care Development Fund and
providing oversight to 10 regional offices serving states, tribes and territories. Previously, she was
assistant superintendent for early childhood education for the District of Columbia, where she
initiated the first publicly funded pre-kindergarten program. In other professional experience, she
has held positions with the Department of Education and Department of Public Welfare for the
state of Pennsylvania; United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and the U.S.
Department of Education.

Thompson Payton has been honored for her leadership in early childhood education by the
Administration for Children and Families, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Temple University
Institute on Disabilities. She also has served on boards and committees for nonprofit associations
and professional organizations. In addition, she is the author of three publications related to school
readiness and advocacy. She also is featured in the Huffington Post as a regular blogger and has
been cited in numerous news media for her expertise.

Thompson Payton received her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.
She holds a master’s degree in social work and a doctorate in educational leadership from the
University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by
breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic
foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal
opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children
so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States
and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special attention is paid to priority places
where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to
success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New
Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit http://www.wkkf.org