Health Equity Now: A Federal Policy Platform to Advance Public Health
The early days of the Biden-Harris administration hold tremendous power to turn the tide towards justice and health. We need bold, immediate, and systems-focused action to address the acute and long-standing health crises impacting our communities, including severe economic inequality, housing insecurity, systems of state violence, and the gutting of public health infrastructure. To move towards collective health, this administration must swiftly and directly heed the demands of communities and organizers most directly impacted by systemic racism and inequity.
Because of systemic racism, it is people of color — especially Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities — who are disproportionately harmed by these intersecting crises, all of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and global climate crisis. These same communities are also leading the work of naming and building transformative solutions.
Public health officials, institutions, and practitioners can hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable to centering racial justice and health equity, and push further for visionary solutions to support collective health.
We need to end public health’s collaboration with, complicity in, and silence on systems of harm in both the private and public sectors. When we build public health power, it must be in partnership with organizers and movements — not with carceral, polluting, profit-driven, or other systems of harm.
Building on our Health Equity Policy Platform for COVID-19 Response and Recovery, we’ve compiled this cross-sector policy platform because cultivating health, well-being, and liberation requires immediate upstream action to redress past and ongoing harms. It requires following the leadership—and centering the demands of—those who have been most impacted by systemic violence and injustice. And we know that public health has a critical role to play. From writing OpEds in local and national publications, to leveraging our positional power to create policy change in support of peoples’ demands, we can build with communities and movements across the country to move towards collective health.
This policy platform consists of demands gathered from community groups, movements, organizers, and public health organizations across the country, that support health equity and justice.
Expand and extend recurring direct cash stimulus payments and direct income support programs for all people and families for the duration of the pandemic and ongoing economic crisis.
Provide states with sufficient funding to bolster and reform unemployment insurance systems to respond to increased demand, and to protect those who lose their jobs or whose hours are reduced.
Ensure independent contractors, gig workers, formerly incarcerated people, and undocumented people are included in all federal legislation and economic recovery funding.
Expand and extend COVID-19 emergency paid leave so that all workers can take time off when they are sick, to care for family members, and during school closures.
Expand and extend hazard pay for all essential workers.
Cancel all student debt.
Invest in federally-funded child care infrastructure to support children, families, and child care providers.
Invest in long-term and home care infrastructure that supports workers and families, and that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented care workers.
Expand and extend workplace health and safety standards during COVID-19 and beyond.
✓ Ask your members of Congress to support the FAMILY Act to guarantee workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for loved ones, themselves, or to welcome a new child into their families. Ask your organization to support the FAMILY Act by signing on to this letter to Congress.
Ensure that utilities — including water, gas, electric, phone, and internet — are provided as a public good, especially during a public health crisis.
Indefinitely suspend any proposed utility rate increases and service shut-offs, for all households, regardless of ability to pay.
Prevent sweeps of encampments and provide comprehensive support to those sheltering-in-place outside.
Turn vacant units (in hotels, dorms, offices, etc.) into safe homes for those who need them, including people experiencing houselessness, intimate partner violence, and those released from incarceration and detention.
Ensure all people have access to safe and dignified housing and are able to maintain their belongings to ensure personal and public health and safety.
✓ Sign this petition to tell Biden and the CDC to end evictions, stop utility shut offs, and cancel rent, mortgages, and debt.
Prohibit local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal officials from transferring people to ICE upon their release from jails or prisons.
Grant clemency to incarcerated women and girls.
Defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and police.
Repeal the 1994 Crime Bill, which built the architecture for mass incarceration.
✓ Demand that the Biden-Harris administration take action in its first 100 days on immigrant rights including reinstating and expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (ACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS); including all immigrants in COVID-19 response and recovery; releasing all people from ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CPB) detention camps; and defunding ICE, CBP, and police.
Public health infrastructure
We must build a robust and resilient public health system that is capable of dismantling systems of oppression and advantage, and that uplifts the power of communities most directly impacted by health inequities to lead decision-making via analyzing root causes of health issues, responding to current challenges, facilitating relationships across government sectors, and building community power through meaningful collaboration between government and community organizers.
Develop a Federal Public Health Improvement Plan that provides a comprehensive national roadmap for rebuilding our public health infrastructure, identifies funding and workforce needs, and provides recommendations for action through deep engagement with communities most impacted by inequities.
Fund establishment of Offices of Health Equity at each state health department, with robust staffing, training, tools, and enabling legislation.
Provide capacity building and technical assistance to all state and local health departments in 21st century public health competencies, practices, and tools needed to eliminate health inequities through policy and systems change, including Health in All Policies, climate change, racial equity, and partnerships with community organizations.
Mandate that all state and local health agencies assess and eliminate institutional racism in their policies, programs, and operations; create funding to strengthen the capacity of anti-racist public health practice.
Expand and facilitate the development of innovative community investment models such as accountable communities for health, wellness funds, anchor institutions, and Medicaid demonstration waivers that incentivize partnerships between public health, health care, and community partners to address health equity.
Enact and fund a public health loan repayment program to aid in recruitment and retention for local and state health departments; for example, following the outline of theStrengthening the Public Health Workforce Act.
Fund community health workers and promotoras to support COVID-19 contact tracing, testing, and vaccination in alignment with the Community-Based Workforce Principles. Ensure training and promotion pathways to careers in public health, including health prevention and promotion, and community engagement and organizing. Hire from communities most impacted by inequities.
Encourage adoption of a Health and Equity in All Policies approach across federal agencies to ensure that health, climate, and racial justice considerations are central in policy and program development, and in budget allocation decisions outside of the traditional health sector, and to foster more effective cross-sectoral collaborations to improve population health.
Use health equity metrics, such as the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, the Opportunity Index, and the California Healthy Places Index to ensure equity in COVID-19 response, resource allocation, program planning, service delivery, and to guide and incentivize COVID-19 testing and re-opening, and prioritize vaccination.
✓ Call your members of Congress and ask them to support the Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 202 which will create a social determinants of health program at the CDC. Ask your organization to support by signing on to endorse the bill.
✓ Demand Congress pass the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act to create a "National Center for Anti-Racism" at the CDC that enables our public health system to fight racism as a public health crisis.
Ways for public health to take action
Call or email your members of Congress or local elected officials to express your support for proposed policies that advance social and racial justice and health equity.
Find opportunities in your public health communities —including your workplace, listservs, social media, and more — to share health equity policy demands, resources, and actions.
Ensure that local policies both address short-term needs during the pandemic, and create long-term, sustainable, and equitable solutions.
Understand how governmental public health can leverage its legal authority to make demands regarding COVID-19 response and recovery.
Support budget campaigns to invest in community health and divest from systems of harm.
Connect with local organizations working on the issues you care most about. Go to a meeting, get on the email list, connect with a member, or show up at an action.
Where did these demands come from?
This policy platform was created by consulting with and tracking the demands of the following grassroots and public health organizations and coalitions, their members, and allied groups working closely with impacted communities, including:
- National Lawyers Guild (SF Chapter)
- National Low-Income Housing Coalition
- Paid Leave for All campaign
- People’s Coalition for Safety and Freedom
- Poor People’s Campaign
- Public Health Alliance of Southern California
- Right to the City Alliance
- Trust for America’s Health
- United for Respect
- United We Dream
Know of examples?
Send us concrete examples of organizations, public agencies, and/or elected officials moving these policies forward. Email us examples.
The Human Impact Partners team is available to support your organization in centering health equity. Email us to set up a time to talk.