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Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network (HELEN)

Washington, DC, USA

Engaging health equity champions in a vital exchange of knowledge

The challenge

Collaborative efforts to reduce health disparities demand excellent coordination and careful calibration. Change-leaders must conduct in-depth analyses of potential changes in policies or laws – not merely calculations of cost savings. Yet, it can be difficult to tap into the knowledge of people who have successfully implemented new approaches.

The vision

Since 2004, the National REACH Coalition (NRC) and its 50-state network of community-based organizations has joined with health departments, universities and local organizations to reduce health disparities. Among its goals is to improve access to quality health care for underserved communities. By focusing on identifying root causes, the NRC helps to unite stakeholders around practical solutions that can be shaped into compelling legislative and regulatory initiatives.

The approach

With Aetna Foundation support, the NRC has formed the Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network (HELEN), a web resource designed to bolster the exchange of ideas involving health equity. HELEN is a forum for health equity champions – government policymakers, health law and policy experts, consumers, health professionals and many others. HELEN seeks to identify, analyze and track all laws, policies and programs that impact health equity. The system helps participants refine ideas and advance proposals through government institutions at every level. Participants can learn about health policy analysis, coalition-building, leadership development, and mobilizing communities through social media and events.

The results

The NRC launched HELEN in September 2014. Nearly 1,000 health-equity champions across the nation had already registered by Spring 2015. The HELEN website offers newsletters, fact sheets, studies, articles and issue briefs. In various forums, members direct others to helpful and proven resources. In the future, the NRC plans to host a national meeting of HELEN members to discuss policy and recruit additional members. The group also intends to share its successes through articles in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at conferences.

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