Health Equity Reflection

#ICYMI, March is social work month. What I most appreciate about a social work education is the focus on social justice and seeing a person in the context of their environment. Social workers have an innate understanding that the challenges faced by individuals, groups, and communities cannot be fully understood without looking at the environment. With this perspective, the way we reduce (and eventually eliminate) health disparities is through a person-in-environment approach. People can be so quick to blame an individual or a system, but it is the environment that supports the continued behavioral health disparities we see in marginalized communities. When disparities exist, a knee-jerk reaction is to find the solution to the problem, but complex problems require multifaceted solutions.
Understand, the behavioral health disparities seen in our communities did not happen overnight, therefore the ways leaders address disparities will require intention to address the environment that has sustained these disparities and time to nurture relationships with those marginalized communities to collaboratively develop solutions. As the saying goes haste makes waste. Rushing to find answers and solutions may feel like the right thing to do, and may even have some initial success, but lasting change comes through changing the environment.
There isn’t some silver bullet that will address the health inequities in our communities. However, when we use the person-in-environment lens we start to see the essentiality of building relationships with those who are most affected, because they are the experts on their experience and will help to build solutions together. As Ohio’s community behavioral health system continues to evolve and adopt to emerging needs, leaders need to be continuously cognizant to include those who are directly impacted in planning efforts. Amidst the myriad of tasks and responsibilities, shifting priorities, and the constant state of change – we cannot forget about people – because this is how we get deeper understanding of the environment that must change to advance health equity. Problems do not exist in silos. Solutions do not exist in silos. People do not recover in silos. 
Just as recovery emerges from hope, changing the environment can be a reality. There can be a better future for all Ohioans. Together we can advance behavioral health equity in Ohio.