Equity and Community Engagement

Mission and Goals

The mission of CHAI’s Equity and Community Engagement Core is to advance health equity for BIPOC, LGBT and other under-served aging communities. We strive to build authentic, mutually beneficial partnerships with the community and vibrant collaborations with governmental, business, nonprofits and individual partners to promote healthy aging for Minnesotans and beyond.

In engaging with our community, we seek to:

  • design, pursue and advance shared equity and diversity goals with community partners;
  • convene, inform and obtain community feedback about state policy, programs, services which may impact access, usage, and quality of care for older adults;
  • build collective community capacity through authentic and productive partnerships;
  • co-create and disseminate culturally informed research, knowledge and emerging practices that are translatable and meaningful to diverse communities;
  • bring multi-generational and “chosen family”-centered lens to healthy aging;
  • facilitate system change by examining disparities and translating research findings into policy recommendation and interventions.

The principles that guide our work with the community

We commit to advancing equity. Inequities weaken the fabric of our community and our connections, and they hurt each one of us. We believe that if we are to improve the aging experience for everyone, we must first help those who most need it. This is why we root all of our work in equity and diversity to support aging adults in BIPOC, LGBT and other underserved communities.

We believe in the public value of higher education. As a higher education institution, we have the capacity and the responsibility to communicate, translate and apply the latest science to benefit our communities. We commit to putting research and science at the service of our community to improve the lives of those who face racism, discrimination, inequities and health disparities.

We build authentic community partnerships. Letting the needs and priorities of our community partners inform our aging research agenda, so that we can deliver solutions, interventions and education that are meaningful for the local community and have a direct benefit in the lives of their aging adults.

We meet our community where they are. Engaging with our community partners in multiple ways to ensure a productive and supportive relationship every time. To meet people and our partners where they are, our collaboration may fall anywhere on our Community Engagement spectrum, ranging from outreach to fully community-driven initiatives. Tell us how we can support you.

Community Engagement Terms and Definitions

Authentic community engagement is the intentional process of co-creating solutions to inequities in partnership with people who know through their own experiences the barriers to opportunity best. Authentic community engagement is grounded in building relationships based on mutual respect and that acknowledge each person’s added value to the developing solutions.*

  • Community-engaged scholarship: The creation and dissemination of knowledge and creative expression in furtherance of the mission and goals of the university and in collaboration with the community. Community-engaged scholarship (CES) addresses community needs through research, teaching and service in a mutually beneficial partnership. The quality and impact of CES are determined by academic peers and community partners.*
  • Community-engaged service: The application of one’s professional expertise that addresses a community-identified need and supports the goals and mission of the university and the community. Community-engaged service may entail the delivery of expertise, resources and services to the community.
  • Community-engaged teaching and learning: A pedagogical approach that connects students and faculty with activities that address community-identified needs through mutually beneficial partnerships that deepen students’ academic and civic learning. Examples are service-learning courses or service-learning clinical practice.
  • Community-engaged research: A collaborative process between the researcher and community partner that creates and disseminates knowledge and creative expression with the goal of contributing to the discipline and strengthening the well-being of the community. Community-engaged research (CER) identifies the assets of all stakeholders and incorporates them in the design and conduct of the different phases of the research process. CBPR is the most evolved form of CER in which all participants are equal contributors to each step of the research process.*

Group of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or a similar situation.* Communities may share common characteristics such as age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, etc. Individuals may identify with several communities.

The application and provision of institutional resources, knowledge or services that directly benefits the community. Examples include music concerts, athletic events, student volunteers, public lectures, or health fairs.*

Culture is the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts with which the members of society use to understand their world and one another.

Cultural competence is having the capacity to function effectively within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs of consumers and their communities (Office of Minority Health). Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. It’s not a destination, it’s a continuous learning journey. No one person can speak for an entire community, no community is monolithic.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines cultural humility as “a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of her/his own beliefs and cultural identities.”

Cultural competency and cultural humility make up the framework for culturally responsive work and engagement with families, communities, and service systems. Combined, they create a culturally responsive approach for organizations. Cultural responsiveness is achieved by collaborating with individuals and families to identify and understand their needs, their strengths, and culturally-based behaviors.*

  • Cultural responsiveness means that organizations design and implement services that incorporate the knowledge and unique cultural experiences of individuals, children, families, organizations, and communities served.
  • Culturally responsive programs are driven by first-hand knowledge and an understanding of the varied needs of diverse families and communities–their choices, not by cultural stereotypes or generalized assumptions.

Health is determined through the interaction of individual behaviors and social, economic, genetic and environmental factors. Health is also determined by the systems, policies, and processes encountered in everyday life. Examples of determinants of health include job opportunities, wages, transportation options, the quality of housing and neighborhoods, the food supply, access to health care, the quality of public schools and opportunities for higher education, racism and discrimination, civic engagement, and the availability of networks of social support.

Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. Supporting Diversity doesn’t begin and end with just acknowledging and/or tolerating differences.

Successful advancement of Diversity requires a set of conscious practices that involve:

  • Understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment;
  • Practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own;
  • Understanding that diversity includes not only ways of being but also ways of knowing;
  • Recognizing that personal, cultural and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others;
  • Building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.

A population-based difference in health outcomes (e.g., women have more breast cancer than men; African Americans and Latinos have more Alzheimer’s than whites).

When every person has the opportunity to realize their health potential — the highest level of health possible for that person — without limits imposed by structural inequities. To do so, people must have: access to political, economic, healthcare, and educational opportunity; the capacity to make decisions and effect change for themselves, their families, and their communities; and social and environmental safety in the places they live, learn, work, worship and play.

For people in Minnesota of American Indian, African American, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and African descent, these opportunities are limited by structural inequities that are rooted in historical and individual racism, as well as inequities due to culture, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental illness, intellectual or physical abilities, hearing or other sensory differences, economic status or geographic location, whether intended or not.*

Analyzing health inequities requires a process that uses data to identify health differences between population groups, instead of only examining the population as a whole. The process then continues by identifying and examining the causes of these population differences in health.

A health disparity based in inequitable, socially-determined circumstances (for example, American Indians have higher rates of diabetes due to the disruption of their way of life and replacement of traditional foods with unhealthy commodity foods). Because health inequities are socially-determined, change is possible.

Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive organization promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members.

Sustained collaboration between institutions of higher education and communities for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information, and resources. Examples are research, capacity building, or economic development.

Structures or systems of society — such as finance, housing, transportation, education, social opportunities, etc. — that are structured in such a way that they benefit one population unfairly (whether intended or not).

The normalization of an array of dynamics — historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal — that routinely advantage white people while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color and American Indians.

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