As a public health organization, Human Impact Partners is motivated by this key question: How can we address the underlying reasons that we keep reproducing inequitable conditions and outcomes across all systems?
For us, the answer lies in confronting the unequal distribution of power and dismantling the systems of advantage and oppression that uphold these unjust imbalances.
We advance equity by confronting the unequal distribution of power
Power comes in the form of resources, access to decision making, alliances and networks, and the dominant stories society chooses to tell about this nation and its people. It can be found in the venues where decisions are made — legislative, administrative, judicial, electoral, communications, and corporate.
All the work we do — our advocacy, organizing, capacity building, and policy-focused research — aligns with the idea that we need to change who holds power, how power is held, and what holding collective power to advance equity can look like to benefit the people who are experiencing the greatest harm.
We also need to dismantle the systems of advantage and oppression that uphold these unjust imbalances
Systematic othering and exclusion are mechanisms to maintain power and advantage for some people, communities, and sectors. This occurs through systems of advantage like White supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, ableism, and others.
In the United States, structural racism is a root cause of harm in our society. We therefore lead explicitly — though not exclusively — with an analysis of how a racialized system that upholds White supremacy creates and perpetuates inequities that persist in every sector across the nation, without exception.
We achieve sustainable, long-term change through social movements
Social change happens through organized social movements — it’s not a haphazard thing that just happens. Throughout history, major gains in social, economic, environmental, and political conditions have resulted from the intentional and sustained efforts of grassroots and advocacy movements to build power, win civil rights, and create inclusive communities. While the change can take decades to manifest, social movements change the terms of political debate; our laws, policies, and governmental institutions; and our wider culture. With racial inequities and wealth and power inequality at unprecedented levels, HIP is particularly committed to engaging in social movements as the primary way to achieve our vision.
This isn’t about winning one policy change or an election. This is about making a steadfast commitment to using our resources and expertise to support people who are most impacted, with the goal of building power and bringing down systems of advantage and oppression, to ultimately transform the conditions and trajectory of our society.
Public health needs to be deeply engaged in this work
We want the field of public health to see itself as part of our larger social and racial justice movements, to achieve health for all. We know this requires building bridges between our worlds, so that public health’s power — our voice, evidence, and resources — can be more strategically aligned with and respond to social movements that are leading the change we need to advance health equity. We also need visionary, strategic, and authentic leadership in public health.
Building collective power requires transforming government
We value authentic democracy, so that all people have the capacity to collectively shape the policies and systems that impact our lives. We also believe our government needs to play a critical role in redressing harm and advancing equity. We need to repair and transform government institutions so they are inclusive, transparent, responsive, and accountable to communities facing inequities.
Government holds particular responsibility for having created oppressive policies and structures that continue to cause harm, even after they have been officially repealed or reformed. We believe it’s crucial for government institutions to restructure their internal, cross-government, and community policies and operations around the principles of equity, justice, and power sharing.
Government needs to stand firmly in its proper role: to defend the health and well-being of all, against political and corporate pressure to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few.
Transforming society requires transforming ourselves
Analysis alone will not suffice to create a just society — we need to tap into the emotional and physical ways we react and self-regulate in the work, too. At HIP, we call this integrating the head and heart.
We have been acculturated to approach health equity and social justice work with a sole focus on policy change, planning, analyzing, and producing data — and other activities primarily “of the brain.” We have tended to suppress the shared pain and trauma of living through, witnessing, or perpetuating systems of oppression. By integrating the head and heart, we’re breaking down this false dichotomy between thinking and feeling.
We all hold histories and knowledge in our bodies, but denial, disconnection, and shaming of this embodied knowledge is one of the ways that White supremacy, patriarchy, and other intersecting power systems have been perpetuated.
Dismantling oppressive systems will require us to tap into that knowledge to inform how we show up in the work and across our relationships. We need to normalize creating space in our work and movements to feel and heal in order to shape a new liberation culture that acknowledges and welcomes our whole selves.
To succeed, we need to:
- Focus on structural solutions, targeting our policies, systems, institutions, and narratives to achieve societal change
- Be explicit about how power, racism, and other systems of advantage are at the root of health and social inequities
- Reintegrate our hearts and bodies into this work, to make space for healing and trust building
- Work with grassroots community organizers, in places where people closest to harm are identifying solutions and building their collective power to transform society
- Support the field of public health — and particularly governmental public health — to center equity and engage more deeply in social movements to transform how and with whom the field works