In June 2024, ChangeLab Solutions and the Geographic Health Equity Alliance facilitated a two-part webinar series, Policy Tools for Rural Equity & Prosperity, to explore rural policy solutions — and the policy process itself — as tools for addressing systemic barriers to health and prosperity. The series is structured to explore the following questions:

  1. What is the history of structural discrimination in the United States?
  2. How do past systemic barriers, including chronic disinvestment, perpetuate deep-rooted inequities in rural communities today?
  3. What community-driven policies show promise in addressing systemic barriers to health equity in rural places?
  4. How can rural BIPOC communities engage in decision-making and policy processes?
  5. What policy strategies can address the root causes of inequities and foster rural prosperity for all?
  6. What are some examples of equitable policy solutions to consider for your community?

See below for summaries and recordings!

Part 1: History, Impact & Possibility provides a grounding in the history of structural discrimination that has impeded rural and tribal communities’ well-being and opportunity. We unpack how the legacy of these impacts still resounds today. Panelists examine how community-driven policy can improve tobacco and cancer prevention strategies and access to resources such as clean water, broadband, healthy food, and paid leave, so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive. The webinar recording and slides are now available.

In the Q&A, hear facilitators engage with participants on key considerations we must address, in moving this work from theory to action:

  • Participants discuss the significance and risks of using a term like “BIPOC” — especially as it risks racializing Indigenous peoples and nations — as complicit in erasure and harmful aggregation. The conversation emphasizes the importance of disclaimers about using certain terms (e.g., BIPOC, rural, structural racism, tobacco, and others). In the webinar, the term BIPOC is part of a research project emphasizing overlapping structural discrimination timelines and forces at play among these varied groups (especially for Indigenous, Anti-Black, and Immigrant systems of discrimination). While each group has different experiences that should not be dissolved into a common term, there also may be power in naming common structural forces of oppression, as we seek to identify a shared path forward.
  • Another powerful topic that arose in the Q&A is just how draining and challenging it can be for us — as allies in public health working to address the root causes of health inequity — to incorporate these conversations into our work. The professional, personal, emotional repercussions cannot be overstated. We discuss research partners who provide resources and services aimed at acknowledging our shared humanity, and sharing power, when our partnerships to address these challenging issues require so much of us.

These are frank and thoughtful responses to challenging and dense webinar content, and we are honored to have shared the room with such a great audience. Check it out!

SPEAKERS

 

Part 2: Policy Development Process & Examples examines how governments and their partners can engage rural BIPOC communities to improve policy outcomes by using the policy process — from assessment through development, implementation, and evaluation — to promote health equity. Partnerships, framing, and data are core components in integrating input from residents — especially those who historically have been marginalized — into policy solutions in service of health and justice. We look more closely at the cancer and tobacco prevention policies highlighted in Part 1, focusing on community-centered practices. The webinar recording and slides are now available.

In the Q&A, hear facilitators engage with participants on some practical and philosophical considerations:

  • Participants once again call out the importance of careful use of complicated and possibly harmful terms, for example: “Thank you for recognizing the term BIPOC falls short in describing diverse communities and individuals.”
  • One question raises important considerations around local hiring practices and policies to support rural equity and prosperity. The chat was alive with ideas — from state level policies to set standards for hiring requirements and processes, to partnering with leaders all along the local workforce pipeline. Hear a rich conversation about deepening that commitment by expanding opportunities to employment, training, education, and even broadband.
  • There is a robust discussion of how changing terminology for policy change (and government intervention) in rural places requires not just a shift in framing or messaging, but a shift in how policy and the policymaking process happen. Government action evokes strong reactions based both on past harms, and on the beliefs and values that underlie philosophical approaches to governance. We can open ourselves to conversations rooted in shared values, without ignoring the elephant in the room.

SPEAKERS

 

Resources Shared by Presenters and Participants

ChangeLab Solutions’ Law & Policy Resources

 

CDC’s Policy Process and Non-Lobbying Resources

 

ChangeLab Solutions’ Rural Equity Partnership Resources

 

ChangeLab Solutions’ Prevention Policy Resources

 

Tribal Partnerships Resources

Other Resources Included in Q&A