Gorge Health Equity Collaborative: Columbia Gorge Region, OR and WA

Based in the Columbia Gorge region located between Oregon and Washington, the Gorge Health Equity Collaborative (GHEC) created a Community-Driven Health Equity Action Plan to help local agencies develop a better understanding of equity, assess and understand where each agency is on its journey toward equity, and identify supports and resources to adopt equitable policies and practices.

Vision and Goals Excerpt

In early 2018, the GHEC was born. This group was well aware of some long-time efforts to address equity in the Gorge and wanted to intentionally build on those efforts. They also recognized that those efforts were almost exclusively focused on the individual level and identified a gap: agencies and service providers needed support to better address equity issues. In response, the planning group identified three broad goals:  

1. Help agencies in the Gorge develop a better understanding and working knowledge of equity.
2. Support agencies in assessing and understanding where each is on its journey toward equity.
3. Identify supports and resources to help these agencies adopt equitable policies and practices.

The GHEC envisions a community where organizations have clear diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and put them into practice. To achieve this vision, the GHEC has convened community partners to develop a Gorge Health Equity Plan (GHEP) that includes shared definitions, resources, training opportunities, and tools that will inform and educate for change. The region places strong value on cross-sector collaboration, which is a vital component of the GHEC’s vision.

 

Community Context Excerpt

Over the past six years, the Columbia Gorge community has taken several key steps toward building a healthy community. First, they have conducted three collaborative Community Health Assessments/Community Health Improvement Plans (CHA/CHIP) that are rooted in individual community member surveys and widely accepted by providers as the health priorities for the community.

Second, they have developed a Collective Impact model that includes a community grant writer called a Collective Impact Health Specialist who is paid to develop cross-sector collaborations that address CHIP topics and pursue and secure funding for those collaborations. With this formula of designing community-identified solutions to address community-identified needs, the Collective Impact model has developed 40+ new initiatives while securing $10.4 million in grants to support those initiatives. 

The Gorge’s unique model focuses on building trust, relationships, and a common understanding of the community’s needs. One of the needs they have collectively recognized is a lack of diversity, inclusion, and equity at the organizational level, which translates to inequities for individuals served by those agencies. Unfortunately, too few community providers and community agencies actively view their work through an equity lens. At the same time, however, the vast majority of these providers and agencies understand the importance of equity and are interested in becoming more diverse, inclusive, and equitable; they simply may not know what equity means in the context of their work and the community. The GHEC is intentionally working to build on this need and this collective desire to support these providers and agencies.

One significant challenge they face is navigating the gap between some community partners who have been working to improve equity for decades and other organizations that are new to this specific work. The challenge is to enhance the work through alignment and coordination to avoid overlapping or duplicating existing and long-standing efforts. The GHEC leaders and partners are intentionally working to ensure that the final plan will “meet each organization where they are” on the equity journey to ensure that the overall work is meaningful and impactful.

 

Learn more about the GHEC at:

 

Disclaimer: Community teams own all aspects of Community-Driven Health Equity Action Plans. While this plan was created using the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) model for developing Community-Driven Health Equity Action Plans in collaboration with the NAM Culture of Health Program, it is solely a product of the Gorge Health Equity Collaborative.


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