By Vivian Zamora, Central Valley Health Policy
The Central Valley Health Policy Institute has dedicated itself to eliminating health disparities in the poor counties of the San Joaquin Valley. CVHPI recently partnered with the Leadership Learning Community to engage graduates of the Health Policy Leadership Program in a six month project to intentionally weave the network and strengthen their capacity to grow a health equity movement in the Central Valley. CVHPI established a network weavers team that included graduates from different sectors that unite with the same passion to address the social determinants of health that led the Central Valley to have among the worst health outcomes in the country. This team has resulted in relationships being built between people who are starting to see each other as resources, and beginning to envision how they could form the nucleus of a regional health equity network.
CVHPI has worked with and hosted two regional meetings of representatives of California Regional Obesity Program, California Air Quality Coalition, Community Water Center, California Rural Legal Assistance, San Joaquin Valley Children’s Place Matters and the Public Health Partnership. CVHPI is also in its eighth cohort of the Health Policy Leadership Program (HPLP) which consists of 120 graduates in the region who are active, or want to be active, with these initiatives. HPLP is a rich source for building a framework of collaborators to build a regional health equity network that could potentially create policy change, bring relief from the health disparities the Central Valley is suffering, and increase active participation in the cause.
CVHPI created the Health Policy Leadership Program so that there could be leaders in the Central Valley that are dedicated to implementing healthcare initiatives and policies with a focus on health equity. Through this program, participants learn how social and economic determinants create health inequities. With this knowledge, HPLP members continue to work in the community and build their own networks based of the goals of CVHPI. This makes them key participants in the network.
Our approach to creating a strong network that will build a Central Valley health equity movement is to first understand how networks behave, what makes a network strong, and how to weave and strengthen the network. We conducted a network survey among our graduates to visualize connectivity in the network, and where there may be gaps or opportunities to weave the network.
Our project with the Leadership Learning Community has three objectives:
· Map and understand network connections
· Connect people and resources across the HPLP network
· Bridge issue and initiative silos
After developing a map and identifying the nodes, links, clusters, hubs, and bridgers in our network, we were able to compare the current map to what our map would potentially look like if we were to take advantage of what important connections people already have a strong desire to make. We can strengthen the equity network by connecting the outliers to the core of the network. We could see what areas had fewer resources and what connectors could help bring a solution to the table. We could see who was involved in a lot of networks and could be an asset to connect with. We could also compare areas to initiatives.
While making meaning of the maps, there was a spark within the participants about the power of the network. During meaning making session, we were able to witness a few different connections that were made. The key to creating a network is talking about what you are passionate about and what you need.. On many occasions, we may hesitate to ask someone for help, when in fact they may know someone in their own network that has a potential solution. Each of us can be a gateway to new relationships.
To assist with their networking ventures, we created a wiki page that holds valuable tools for the network’s use. Contact information of other HPLP members, definitions of initiatives, what initiative each member is interested in, if they are actively pursuing the initiative, tips on how to network and more. We invited them as members to write their success stories to encourage others to start networking.
The first meeting was a success and we hope that the next meeting brings more members to participate. If we all are able to work as a team with all our diverse backgrounds, we will be able to build a Central Valley Health Equity Movement.