The Virginia Department of Health’s Thomas Jefferson Health District (TJHD) changed its name to Blue Ridge Health District, effective January 2021. This change reflects the District’s commitment to ensuring that public health services are inclusive and welcoming to all of the communities served. Blue Ridge Health District also aligns with other health districts in Virginia where majority are named after regional geography.
In December 2020, the BRHD Equity Committee developed our approach to health and our equity statement, both of which are included on the BRHD website, in job announcements and will continue to be incorporated into key policy documents like our strategic plan.
Engaging in racial equity work through community coalitions
BHRD has been a member of the Charlottesville Food Justice Network Planning Team since 2017 when we partnered with Cultivate Charlottesville (then City Schoolyard Garden) to highlight the need for a systems approach to food equity in the City of Charlottesville to Charlottesville City Council. Thanks to community leadership, this partnership resulted in shifting funding from starting a Healthy Corner Stores program to ongoing support for the Charlottesville Food Justice Network. Two BRHD team members participated in CFJN’s Soul Fire Farm Uprooting Racism training in November, 2020. In 2021, BRHD’s Director of Partnerships is participating in a monthly Racial Equity Accountability Circle with other members of CFJN.
BRHD is a member of the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition and participates on the coalition Steering Committee and in the ARISE (Anti-racism, Racial awareness, Intersectionality, Sensitivity and Equity) Subcommittee. The Coalition increases access to mental health and substance use services, helps organizations address institutional racism and advocates for progress at the community level.
Using an equity lens for community assessments and planning
MAPP2Health –Our 2019 MAPP2Health process and report has been shared at nationally as a best practice for the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACHO) community assessment and improvement planning process.
COVID-19 Vaccination Equity Strategy – In early February 2021, the Blue Ridge Health District convened a Vaccine Equity Policy group including representatives from the County of Albemarle, the City of Charlottesville, the University of Virginia, the University of Virginia Health System and Sentara Martha Jefferson Health System. The group reviewed data, met with nationally recognized ethicists to review frameworks for vaccine distribution and published the BRHD COVID-19 Vaccination Equity Strategy to guide the allocation and distribution of vaccine across the District.
Investing in staff training and engagement (see What we’re learning)
The Virginia Department of Health launched a new, required online course for all employees in cultural humility and will be adding additional courses related to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the year.
BRHD has been funded to hire a staff Wellness Coordinator in the fall of 2021 to focus on retention, inclusiveness and recognition – and celebrating the diversity of our district.
We have also received funding to schedule staff training and development to continue our learning and understanding of community engagement. (see Ways to work with us)
Changing our policies and procedures
The VDH Central Office has received funding to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in each local health district. This position will be critical to providing support and leadership around policy and systems changes and will work closely with both our Equity Committee and District Management Team.
This fall, we will be designing an onboarding process for all staff that includes the history of public health and our impact in both improving health outcomes and contributing to health disparities.