11th Annual William T. Small, Jr.
Our World, Our Community: Building Bridges for Health Equality
by Barbara C. Wallace, Ph.D.
We live interdependently within a global community, in which what affects one affects all. "Building bridges", by creating partnerships, linkages, collaborations, and alliances among individuals, faith groups, community organizations, not-for-profits, foundations, educational institutions, agencies, neighborhoods, states, nations, countries, continents and combinations of these, is therefore vital to achieving health equality. These relationships and other practical, tangible steps are the appropriate response to the call for a global civil rights and social justice movement to bring about health for all. There is, moreover, a contemporary imperative for all human beings to engage in concrete acts of service for the sake of a humanity that is greater than any individual self, as an essential part of what it means to participate in this global movement for health equity. Framing the movement in these terms expands our national discourse on health disparities in the U.S. into a global conversation about equity in health, and shifts the focus from what we do not want (health disparities) to the real objective (health equity). One outcome is a new, transdisciplinary field of equity in health, codified in 13 guiding principles.
Although health for all is not a new goal, it is becoming increasingly within reach. The rapid development and proliferation of computers, the Internet, and the World Wide Web is helping to create a true global community, building bridges among various components of this community, and sustaining the global civil rights and social justice movement for equity in health. Several key concepts underlie the ability of these technological advances to serve this movement effectively: a broad definition of health, empowerment, self-determination and collective action to achieve a community's vision of health, and sustainability. These concepts can be applied to training community-based peer educators and community health workers, and using online and distance education models to permit a global reach. The task of ensuring the delivery of culturally and linguistically appropriate health education, health promotion, and disease prevention is underscored, as well as the role of training to ensure cultural competence among service providers, researchers, and educators. Finally, the keynote address will highlight the role of research and evaluation of prevention, intervention and treatment models to determine "what works," in order to establish menus of evidence-based options.