Just flying back from San Francisco where American Legacy Foundation was nice enough to sponsor a second convening of a tiny group of tobacco control disparities leaders. It was great to be in the room with so many old friends and brilliant minds. And it was great to be candid and bold as we swapped stories; what’s happening in your communities, what’s working, what’s not, what opportunities can use more gas? How worn out are you? And of course the big one, how do we think outside the box about really moving tobacco control disparity work forward?
It became clear that many of us were sharing similar experiences — we were hitting roadblocks that shouldn’t still be hanging around, and we were a bit dubious about the quality of some of the disparity work being conducted. So for a day we got together, took the gloves off and tried to think about joint solutions. Clearly there’s no magic bullet, or else we all would have done it long ago. Disparity work is complicated and messy.
But as gritty as the realities were, this meeting is the exact reason I love working in tobacco control. Where else do you see the leadership of so many different communities of color and LGBT people coming together, across advocacy, expert, and researcher lines to just examine — how can we do better for all of our allied constituencies? Populations experiencing tobacco-related health disparities now comprise over 40% of the country. We can and should challenge ourselves to raise the bar of work on how we work on eliminating these disparities.
Our meeting ideas were just brainstorms, we’ve got a plan to test a few in the next few months, and clearly more people need to be invited to this table. But even though our thinking isn’t ready for primetime yet — know big thinking is afoot, and the true power is that we’re doing it together.
Tell us, what bold thoughts do you have on how to enhance tobacco disparity work?