Kent County
Health Connect
Health Equity Council
African American family running playfully outside in a park at golden hour

Bringing together diverse partners to create a space for mutual learning and listening to communities facing the greatest inequities and their proposed solutions.

Health Equity Council Logo
SAVE THE DATE

2024 Annual Conference

The Annual Conference is scheduled for September 19. If you are interested in presenting on your organization’s health equity activities or how your organization is addressing the Health Equity Council Priorities, please e-mail Olivia Piña at Olivia.Pina@kentcountymi.gov. Sponsorship opportunities are also available to those who may be interested.

Goals

  • Listen well to communities facing the greatest inequities and understand their priorities and proposed solutions.
  • Bring systems together to decrease duplication, improve communication, align efforts, and provide resources and support.

  • Improve trust with community and between organizations.

  • Improve equity in data by integrating the work of the Council in the Community Health Needs Assessment/Community Health Improvement Plan process.

Hispanic family laughing over dinner outdoors

History

The Health Equity Council (HEC) was established in 2022 to enhance community relationships built during the COVID-19 pandemic and address health disparities facing the diverse populations who call Kent County home.  The formation of the Council was supported by three backbone organizations, the Kent County Health Department, the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, who continue to provide Convening Support to Council activities.

Made up of community-based organizations (CBOs) and community members representing diverse racial and ethnic groups and geographic areas faced with barriers to achieving optimal health, the Council members bring Community Voice to pressing health issues.  Brainstorming and Prioritization sessions with Council members in late 2022 and early 2023 identified Mental Health as an area of focus for the Council, leading to the formation of Action Teams to devise strategies to impact factors that contribute to poor mental health in the community.

Achieving community health improvement requires involvement of a variety of public health system partners.  To address the topic of mental health, the Health Equity Council provided mini grants ranging from $10,000 to $12,000 to fifteen community organizations in June 2023 to implement various projects aimed at improving access to mental health supports and increasing feelings of safety.  Health Equity Council partners were heavily involved in gathering data from their respective populations during the 2023 Kent County Community Health Needs Assessment, ensuring that voices of communities who were often overlooked were heard, resulting in a community survey sample that was reflective of the overall Kent County population.

A second round of mini grants was distributed in February 2024 to 16 organizations to address the priorities identified in the 2023 CHNA.  February 2024 also saw the formation of the HEC Advisory Board to bring together representatives of health systems, insurance providers, academia, government, and CBOs to mobilize resources and support the work of the HEC.

Health Equity Council Structure

Community Voice

Action Teams

Convening Support

Advisory Board

Priorities

Priorities are determined by the Kent County Community Health Needs Assessment. Strategies to address these priories are developed and included in the Community Health Improvement Plan. A major goal of the CHNA/CHIP is to collaborate with the community, stakeholders, and cross-sector partners to coordinate resources and reduce duplication. The CHIP is a shared community effort with shared ownership. To achieve maximum impact on the identified health priorities, it is most effective to engage partners who are already doing work in a specific area, or who have the expertise and organizational strengths to lead certain initiatives.

Access to Health Care

  • Reduce linguistic and cultural barriers to improve access to medical care.
  • Reduce barriers to navigating the health insurance system.

Community Safety

  • Improve relationships between police and community
  • Increase feelings of safety among K-12 students

Housing

Increase access to safe housing options

Access to Healthy Food

Reduce inequities in access to affordable healthy food options

Mental Health

Increase access to mental health support and reduce stigma

Resources