At least once a year CDC Office on Smoking and Health convenes their six funded national disparity networks for a day of updates and brainstorming. These are usually great days, as we all share issues across the different priority populations, and most often, dream up some new great collaborative effort – like when we penned a letter urging better disparity population data collection with the massive new NIH PATH tobacco study, or when we penned a letter urging more integration of disparity population action plans in the big rollout of new health care reform money.
As we’re in our seventh year of running one of CDC’s tobacco disparity networks, I’ve been to at least seven of these so far. As we approach the end of this funding cycle, I’m aware that it’s really likely some of the networks around the table may not succeed in getting the cooperative agreement for the next round of funding — so some of the esteemed colleagues here probably won’t be at the table next time. I certainly hope it’s not us! Frankly I really respect each of our sister networks now, and feel really honored to have worked with them thus far.
So… over the years, what strikes me about these annual meetings?
Look at the picture above. In our meeting now there’s probably room for 45 people around the table, and the people here are literally taking turns coming in and taking seats when it’s their chance to talk with the disparity network reps. In all we might have 60+ folk attending this meeting. There’s the epidemiology team coming to talk about enhancements (we asked for) in data collection, the management team listening to our big picture issues, the legal team updating us on new changed related to policy change and lobbying, the health communications team reporting on the targeted media campaigns (we asked for), and then right now there’s a big media team giving us spokesperson training so we can be ready to help push those targeted tobacco control media campaigns.
Years ago, it was just us, our project officers and maybe the disparity representative from the Office of Smoking and Health. Now, it’s like the disparity networks are a hub in a huge machine. We’re valuable, CDC wants our input, and we need to keep up communications on our many collaborations.
I really give CDC Office on Smoking and Health credit, the input and engagement of disparity networks has really been moved to a more central role in overall operations. Excellent!