Guest Blogger writing from the National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH)
Day 3 in Kansas City and Day 2 of the NCTOH started with some unexpected chills running down my arms. And no, I haven’t caught the virus of death!
As I was finishing my cup of coffee this morning in the plenary session, Dr. Adewale Troutman took the stage as the last speaker. A tough task, as anyone who has tried to keep the attention of a room of hundreds of people after an hour and a half of lectures can tell you. But Dr. Troutman did just that and more. So, before the inspiration I felt this morning begins to fade I wanted to get it on the screen. Then I promise I’ll return to the Summit and smaller NCTOH sessions!
Dr. Troutman spoke of many things, including the equivalence of social policy and health policy and his rejection of the discussion of health disparities for one of health equity and inequity. But the one that I wrote down and circled several times in my notebook was the question – “What is your vision of a world with health equity?”
This was the question that immediately gave me chills because so often in public health we focus on categories, difference, and disparities. We focus on collecting data on what is wrong, with who, and how the strategies we need to use are different for each of these social, cultural, economic,and other differential groups. We fight with legislators, organizations, and individuals to right the wrongs of history and past unequal treatment. And yes, these are all important steps to getting to our desired future.
Yet we so often forget to stop and imagine the big picture – how the world we want actually looks! How will we behave? What rights will we demand in our government? What role does each of us have in working towards that world, even in our every day lives? And as Dr. Troutmann pointed out, there are countries that have officially worked towards imagining and documenting this! In Ecuador, their constitution (at least in writing) expresses their citizens’ right to health as guaranteed by the government!
So as I attend sessions for the next few days, have conversations with colleagues, and reflect on the experience here, I want to keep in mind the bigger question of my vision for a world with health equity.