Collective for Health Equity & Well-Being
Cooperative Extension’s Collective for Health Equity and Well-Being is a community of Extension personnel and their partners united by their shared commitment to advancing health equity and well-being. Members work together to support the implementation of Cooperative Extension’s National Framework for Health Equity and Well-Being (2021) to ensure that all people can be as healthy as they can be. They accomplish their work by promoting the adoption of healthy behaviors while catalyzing collective action aimed at creating community conditions that allow residents to thrive. The Collective also serves as a Program Action Team of the ECOP Program Committee.
What is Health Equity?
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation defines health equity as a societal condition in which “everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.” But when a group experiences sub-optimal health because of policies, practices, or conditions that are preventable, unfair or unjust, the deleterious effects on those groups are referred to as health inequities. Addressing inequities involves improving the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play. Cooperative Extension is well positioned to serve as a catalyst for community-based collective action to address health inequities.
What is Well-Being?
Well-being includes such things as how satisfied people are with their lives as a whole, the sense of control they have over their lives, and their sense of purpose in life (New Economics Foundation, 2012). Well-being also entails being accepted into and belonging to a community, providing and receiving support from others, and acting as a legitimate contributor to a common world” (Pronk et al, 2019). Active work to promote well-being focuses on helping people develop the “civic muscle” needed build communities where all people can thrive in every aspect of life. Work to advance well-being must extend beyond efforts aimed at developing coping skills and self-healing to creating communities that foster hope, opportunity, and a vison for a positive future.
Our Focus Areas
Advancing health equity as a shared value begins with acknowledging that conditions beyond an individual’s control have a significant influence on their overall health status. Addressing health equity involves approaches to Extension work that address the conditions that are preventing some people from being as healthy as they can be.
Recent advances in data science are allowing us to identify those communities and groups experiencing the poorest health outcomes. Engaging with members of those communities and groups can help us co-create solutions for overcoming the barriers that are preventing residents from being as healthy as they can be. We believe the voices of young people are critical to this process.
Growing the number of community-based Extension personnel equipped with the tools they need to lead community change is a priority for the Collective. That can be accomplished by building the capacity of existing staff as well as expanding the number of individuals employed by Cooperative Extension.
Through the Collective we will promote the creation of cross-campus partnerships with academic medical centers and health science colleges, facilitate work between land-grant universities, and engage external partners who share a commitment to health equity and well-being.
Cooperative Extension is naturally suited to catalyze collective action that helps build thriving communities where all residents to experience lifelong health and well-being. There are many roles that Cooperative Extension can play in this work including convener, facilitator, connector, manager, broker, technical assistance provider, or backbone.