Western MA Health Equity Summit

UMass/Amherst hosted the Western MA Health Equity Summit on Oct 2, 2014.  I was involved in the planning committee, comprised of roughly 35 representatives from community groups, colleges and universities, public health departments, health care organizations, and health literacy initiatives.  I was not able to attend all of the planning meetings, but my interest in the Summit never waned.  From my vantage point, this was a genuine invitation from the UMass School of Public Health to Springfield (in particular) to participate in an honest conversation.  Together, we need to take a good look at health disparities in the Pioneer Valley.

The planning committee invited contributions from all four counties of Western Massachusetts, but Springfield had the strongest representation.  Frank Robinson and Jessica Collins (Partners for a Healthier Community, Springfield), Wanda Givens (Mason Square Health Task Force, Springfield), Helen Caulton-Harris and Bettye Anderson Frederic (Springfield Department of Health and Human Services) spoke eloquently about the needs of their community.

The concerns of youth (in all counties) were explored in much of the creative work.  I spent most of the Summit mingling in the Creativity Corridor.  As a result, I missed some of the presentations and all of the workshops.  I hovered over the exhibits, engaging in conversation with presenters, students and those who came to view the creative work on display

Creativity Corridor at the Western MA Health Equity Summit
The videos, displayed on laptops, particularly drew me in:

Pathway to Change: The Jail Labyrinth Project is a video that captures a 7-year collaboration between incarcerated men, community volunteers, the UMass School of Nursing and School of Landscape Design, the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Department and an anonymous private donor to construct an 80-foot green labyrinth on the grounds of the Hampshire County Jail.

Hear Our Stories: Diasporic Youth for Sexual Rights and Justice is a video project that gives voice to young pregnant and parenting women.  This is an incredibly moving project.

I do not have a link for the video Voices in Recovery: Using Digital Storytelling to Address the Needs of Students in Recovery.  Health educator Diane Fedorchak told me that she’d received permission from the students to share their stories at the Health Equity Summit and she was limiting exposure to that venue.  After viewing two of the six videos, I deeply respect the work that Diane is doing at University Health Services. Addiction recovery is delicate.  I understand her decision to protect these students from sharing their stories too widely.

Why We Drop Out is a video bridge discussion between Franklin County youth, teachers and school administrators.  Each group is filmed separately–sharing their perspectives on dropping out of school.  The honest conversations, in words and body language, are captured and shared between different groups.  If my explanation is confusing, please check out the trailer below.

At the end of the Corridor, Live Well Springfield displayed 18 posters that were at the heart of a story-based educational campaign to improve health habits.  Each poster features a Springfield community member engaged in healthy living.  Beautifully done.