City MatCH explores justice as a means to improve health at 2011 National Conference

National Infant Mortality Awareness Month

To improve the health of a community, particularly birth outcomes, we must remove the injustices that prevent health equity. Justice of all kinds — reproductive, environmental, social, etc. — was explored amongst the urban maternal and child health leadership from all over the country at the 2011 City MatCH conference Sept. 18-20 in San Francisco.

City MatCH is based at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and is focues on improving the health and well-being of urban women, children and families by strengthening the public health organizations and leaders in their communities. They selected several areas of justice to focus on:

  • Social Justice — Addressing the structural and systemic inequalities that create disparities in health, not only insuring access to care for all, but fighting for social justice.
  • Reproductive Justice — Links the concept of disparity to the concept of inequity and exists when all people have the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their gender, bodies, sexuality, and families for ourselves and our communities.
  • Environmental Justice — Refers to the conditions in which rights can be freely exercised, whereby individual and group identities, needs, and dignities are preserved, fulfilled, and respected in a way that provides for self-actualization and personal and community empowerment.
  • Economic Justice — An economically-just society is one in which all people have equal opportunity and equal access to wealth…and health.

Highlights from the  conference included:

The opening plenary session fromVernon A. Wall, a founding faculty member at the Social Justice Training Institute and director of Educational Programs & Publications at the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).  His rousing look at the definition of social justice and how to understand our role in bringing social justice to our communities both professionally and personally was a refreshing beginning to the conference.

Lunch on Day 1 featured Youth Speaks, a non-profit, San Francisco-based Spoken Word performance, education, and youth development programs. The program is a tool for self-empowerment of the next generation of leaders, artists and activists. Three

The Coalition also had the opportunity to share work done with the NEFL Teen Pregnancy Task Force during an “Examples from the Field” session. “Teen Listening Tours: Talking to Teens about Adolescent Pregnancy” was presented during the “Promising Practices in Reproductive Life Planning” session on Day 2 of the conference. 

Attendees left the conference with a better understand of how to frame messages about public health after an interactive workshop with Tiffany A. Manuel of the FrameWorks Institute. The importance of using the right language that will resonate across politics, ideals, disciplines, and systems was discussed and then practiced in small groups.