Written by Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, associate professor in the Brown School
When the For the Sake of All report was released two years ago chronicling the significant racial disparities in health and other life outcomes in the St. Louis region, there was much concern about the report collecting dust. We have worked hard to make sure that it does not.
Over the past two years, we’ve produced five Discussion Guides and Action Toolkits, giving community members both valuable information and tangible opportunities to take action related to the recommendations of the report. These materials have been released at Community Action Forums held throughout the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County (the final of which will be held at the Danforth Plant Science Center on June 27). There were over 200 people from 77 zip codes represented at the most recent forum on behavioral health, presented in partnership with the Alive & Well STL initiative focused on helping our region respond to the effects of toxic stress and trauma.
In partnership with Emmanuel Episcopal Church and with the guidance of an interfaith group of religious leaders, we also developed a workshop called “Mobilizing the Faithful” as part of a project called “Faith and For the Sake of All.” Faith communities can learn about our work on health disparities and social determinants of health and plan ways that they can respond. We’re happy that Interfaith Partnership has agreed to help expand this work throughout our region going forward. This grassroots strategy for addressing community health is essential to successfully translating the evidence we presented into action and better outcomes for St. Louis.
There is a crucial “grasstops” strategy that we have been executing as well. In September of 2015, along with our partners at the Institute for Public Health, we convened 60 key stakeholders for “Evidence into Action: Next Steps For the Sake of All.” We asked these leaders to rate the specific sub-recommendations in the report by both importance and feasibility. Then, in a daylong conference held at the Brown School, groups met to determine which strategies should be addressed immediately. The September meeting was followed by a larger gathering of 100 stakeholders co-hosted by the Institute for Public Health and Forward Through Ferguson in February of this year. With facilitation from project development specialists in BJC HealthCare’s Center for Clinical Excellence, eight working groups developed initial implementation plans for the following strategic areas:
- Increase the quality of early childhood programming and increase knowledge and utilization of existing resources.
- Implement a universal Child Development Account program for all children in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
- Build capacity for adoption of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model of coordinated school health in the region’s school districts.
- Sustain existing school-based health clinics and establish new clinics in high-need areas.
- Develop a regional data center to collect, analyze, and share mental health data.
- Coordinate groups addressing gun violence as public health issue.
- Establish a coordinating organization to advocate for development, tax, and zoning policies to support inclusive, affordable housing.
- Address social and economic barriers to health in medical settings and promote the role of community health workers.
Several of the working groups that met in February have continued to meet and plan for implementation, and this will be the central focus as For the Sake of All enters its third phase.
The community can continue to track the progress of work related to For the Sake of All and find all project materials on our web site at forthesakeofall.org. In the coming weeks we will be relaunching the site to make it even more interactive and easier to navigate. Please stay tuned.
Far from collecting dust, For the Sake of All has emerged as an important resource in the region’s efforts to ensure equity and opportunity for all of its residents. We appreciate the support of our partners, funders, and the many community members engaged in this work with us, and we continue to believe that this can be a region that is vibrant and thriving for everyone.