The air is feeling heavy this month. Fires burning from my home county in California through the woods in Oregon and into our Washington backyard. I worry about the long-term effects of this air on my daughter’s young lungs, on the health of people who are pregnant and their babies, as yet another negative health exposure on those who are black, indigenous, and people of color. As another layer on top of COVID-19. Not being able to breathe becomes even more the story of 2020.

News stories stick in my mind as this smog sticks around our region. One of these is unnecessary and unconsented hysterectomies of  ICE detainees in Georgia. This is on top of facilitating conditions that spread COVID-19, “gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions.” We can be shocked by this disregard for human autonomy AND we need to take action. We need to understand whether this is happening in our state.

Our country has a history of medical experimentation; sterilization of black Americans, of indigenous Americans, of people of color, and of those with disabilities. This history has informed and been informed by the paternalistic nature of traditional clinical encounters. An imbalance of power that does not serve the person but the system.

Our job here is to push. To ask why and how much. To ask who gets to be healthy, who gets to live a long life. I felt lucky to be able to facilitate a conversation last week on how clinical care can assess and address the social determinants of health. This is not just a buzzword for us – this is an opportunity to have a bigger input on a person’s health. We work to approach this with humility and an appreciation for the efforts of our community. What do we need to dismantle in order to build a healthy population? Feel free to join us on October 15th at 8am when we meet for the second time.

I’d also love to remind you of our two webinars this month – 9/24 Partnering with Schools in Youth Suicide Prevention and 9/30 Implicit Bias and Racial Inequities in Health Care – both from 12-1. These are both heavy topics, yes, but ones that need to be discussed, destigmatized, and dismantled.

Ginny Weir, MPH
Director, Bree Collaborative