Health Equity and Social Justice for All

Marcy Paul, PhD, doesn’t just teach class, she is a co-learner with her students. Her students engage with community to build relationships, learn, and share public health knowledge. As a part of her Participatory Approaches to Improving Community Health course, students learn various proactive ways to achieve “Health Equity” by considering the interconnectedness of the Social Determinants of Health. “Health Equity” is the fair opportunity for everyone to attain full health potential. The Social Determinants of Health demonstrates how economic, social, and political conditions among different populations influence individual and group differences in health and access to healthcare. During the semester, members of the Healthy Moms-Healthy Babies-Healthy Community (H3) collaboration, that Dr. Paul manages in Southeast Fort Worth, participate in panel discussions focusing on the different ways in which their work in community is connected to the Social Determinants of Health.  The panel participants and members of H3 include community volunteers and grassroots organizers, pastors, representatives of local, state, and Federal government, healthcare, youth serving organizations, and education. Their focus on the concept that we all have a role to play in reducing health disparities and inequities through community partnerships highlights the interconnectedness of the Social Determinants of Health and where we live, work, play, and serve others. This interconnectedness helps to understand community, holistically, and the impact of achieving both “Health Equity” and “Social Justice,” or the fair distribution of human rights in the everyday lives of people at every level of society. Recent projects from the course include a visit to Paul Quinn College in Dallas to provide a preconception health information activity for college students as part of a Peer Preconception Education (PPE) Grant funded through the State of Texas Department of State Health Services.  The PPE grant includes Paul Quinn College, one of nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Texas, providing preconception education as an important indicator of infant mortality. Infant mortality, the death of a baby before a first birthday, is a significant indicator of the health of a community.  In the U.S., African American babies die at the twice the rate as White American babies; an indicator of health inequity and social injustice.  In Dr. Paul’s Qualitative Research Methods course, students used a phenomenological qualitative approach to analyze protest signs displayed by participants in the January 21, 2017 Women’s Worldwide March. This analysis applied the social determinants of health as a framework to look at the messages thus providing broader meaning in terms of the importance of health equity, social justice and ultimately public health for women and all people. Through this lens, projects from these courses make a broad impact not just on the education of students but also on the health and well-being of our community.