Designing a Health Equity Toolkit for Rural and Remote Communities

Health equity is about ensuring that everyone, regardless of where they live, learn, work, or play, has the access and opportunity to reach their full health potential. In Colorado, nearly three-quarters of counties are categorized as ‘rural’ or ‘remote.’ These communities have a key role in addressing health equity across the state, yet the ever-growing list of resources, tools, and energy are often focused on urban settings. 

To fill this gap and build internal capacity around health equity for rural and remote public health departments in Colorado, the OMNI Institute partnered with Pitkin County Public Health and Silver Thread Public Health District to develop the Health Equity Toolkit for Rural and Remote Communities.

Funded by the Telligen Community Initiative, the Toolkit supports public health departments in generating a shared understanding of health equity within the organization, creating an organizational commitment to improving equity, and institutionalizing health equity practices.  This toolkit builds off the work of many existing resources, for which the OMNI Institute and partners are grateful.  We are humbled to contribute this toolkit to the field of equity and hope it may inspire others who will build onto it in the future. 

The toolkit is a starting point to guide organizations through a 12- to 18-month process to explore (health) equity within their organizational culture. It is intended as an initial steppingstone toward creating long-term health equity by focusing on the foundational elements necessary for success. It was developed with and for public health departments, particularly in rural/remote Colorado communities, with the intention that it can be utilized across the social services sector with minimal modification. It is designed for the internal use of organizations, including staff, boards, and stakeholder groups as we recognize that before public health departments and other community-based organizations can tackle health equity issues in their communities, they must first engage in personal and internal organizational equity work.

The Toolkit’s Key Goals:

1.     Utilizing a whole-person-centered approach to create space, culture, and a commitment within public health departments or community-based organizations in which the broad and diverse array of health equity topics can be explored

2.     Developing a foundational, shared understanding of what health inequity is and how it manifests in and impacts organizations and communities

3.     Institutionalizing health equity practices within organizations

4.     Utilizing data to better understand health disparities as issues of health inequity in communities

5.     Supporting organizations as they take concrete actions to improve equity internally

Improving health equity can have transformative effects on a community. Our hope is that this toolkit can help remove barriers for public health departments to build their capacity around health equity and create opportunities for rural and remote communities to thrive.

Want to learn more? Join us at the Public Health in the Rockies Conference in Keystone, Colorado on Thursday August 29th at 2pm, or check our website for more information on the toolkit!