The theme resonated with me from the first time I heard it - "Healthy Communities, Strong Regions, A Prosperous America". As a preventive medicine and public health physician, I was immediately intrigued by the theme of Equity Summit 2011, which took place in Detroit, Michigan on November 8-11. I am accustomed to similar subjects being associated with medical and public health conferences, but I had never participated in a conference on this topic with people outside my field. Several years ago, as a public health student, I wrote an essay highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts of community and academic partners, the government and the private sector, to ensure that resources are more equitably distributed and that all people are able to effectively navigate systems within America. The Equity Summit 2011 theme immediately brought this to mind. I knew that I would feel "right at home" at the conference, and I did.
One reason that the summit was such a powerful experience is that it is designed to facilitate interaction with people from diverse communities, professional backgrounds, and experiences in order to pursue solutions to the equity dilemma that our country faces. It was a rare opportunity for advocates, activists, policymakers, foundation officials, and leaders in various fields and disciplines to come together with one goal in mind - to forward the equity movement. The summit theme reflects that health is essential to doing so. In public health, "the social determinants of health" refer to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. Examples of the social determinants of health include education, housing, employment, and transportation. The social determinants of health represent the core issues involved in the equity conversation and were reflected in all of the conference sessions.
The conference sessions also allowed me to refine the technical and practical skills that are needed in my work with PSE. I currently serve as co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas, which is sponsored by PSE. The atlas is a comprehensive project that will use maps, data and narrative to tell the story of spatial justice in the Metro Atlanta region. It is designed to provide regional stakeholders with an up-to-date, easily accessible, data-rich resource to help guide local decision-making related to growth and development. The atlas will be another tool that PSE will use to promote a more inclusive policy agenda in our region.
The atlas is a perfect example of PSE's role in creating a more equitable and sustainable region, because it is a collaboration of individuals from grass roots organizations, the public and private sectors, as well as academia. Although numerous individuals and groups in Metro Atlanta are working on various components of the equity agenda, we frequently miss opportunities to work together in order to leverage our resources and skills. This requires collaboration across professional disciplines as well as the geographic, economic, and political boundaries that exist within our region.
PSE will continue to build upon its success in bringing individuals and communities together to become more engaged in movements in which they believe they can have an active voice in order to improve the region in which we live. In this manner, Metro Atlanta will do its part in making for healthy communities, strong regions, and a prosperous America.
Ayanna, Buckner, M.D., M.P.H., is the Clinical Director of the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine of Morehouse School of Medicine and serves as Associate Director of its Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program.