The most important determinant of your life expectancy and your quality of life is your zip code, according to USF College of Public Health’s Dr. Adewale Troutman, associate dean for Health Equity and Community Engagement.
Dr. Troutman’s public health passion has been to address health equity and he has taken it a step further by establishing a partnership between the University of South Florida and PolicyLink, a national research institute aiming to advance economic and social equity.
“In a very real way, we have an opportunity to shape the agenda of the nation, by shifting the focus to one that looks at social determinants,” he said.
Dr. Troutman and PolicyLink have teamed up to examine the way centers for health equity are defined and how they identify their work.
“I reached out to PolicyLink and, sure enough, they were doing the same thing, but they had started their focus on local health departments and I had started my focus on university centers, as well as local health departments. So we decided we’d join forces and start working on this together,” he said.
“We heard from several public health leaders who are working closely with communities to promote health through policy change,” said Ms. Stephanie Boarden, PolicyLink senior associate. “Given the national discourse around inequity, there is an opportunity to mobilize these institutions and push the field to address inequitable systems that lead to poor health for low income communities and people of color.”
Dr. Troutman was interested in examining how centers for health equity operated and if there was any consistency in the name, mission, resources and staff of the centers.
“My interest was in defining and identifying the new centers for health equity that were sprouting up all over the country,” Dr. Troutman said. “Was it just a name change over the years from minority healthy to health equity centers and no change in policy, projects or direction?”
As a result of the partnership, national convenings have been held, including at USF, among leaders of the centers for health equity.
“All the centers that are being defined on the East Coast, and certainly the Eastern half of the U.S., were invited to convene and meet here to have some conversations about who we were, our goals and objectives, why are we doing this work, what are we trying to get to and how we build a national network to work on this notion of policy as the primary vehicle for change,” Dr. Troutman said.