By: Jenny Englerth, President & CEO of Family First Health
As Hispanic Heritage Month concludes, now is a time for celebrating and embracing the racial and ethnic diversity that makes up our community and makes it strong. It also creates a time for reflection.
Family First Health’s foundation is rooted in social justice and equity. For the past 50+ years, we have continued work to advance our mission of improving lives by understanding, advocating for and valuing the various perspectives and experiences of our patients, our workforce and the diverse communities where we exist and serve.
Because our organization’s work has focused on improving equity in health outcomes, we are disappointed in the Central York School District’s previous decision to ban a list of more than 300 resources, which reflect the diverse people, cultures and perspectives that make up our community. Such a decision is shortsighted in limiting the learning of our students and fostering understanding; and, decisions like these are bad for our health.
Research indicates that individual and structural racism denies opportunity to people of color and robs them of their physical and mental health. The life expectancy of people of color is often a decade, or more, shorter than their white neighbors. People of color face higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and mental illness. These health inequities, and often the diseases themselves, stem in part from the stress of being silenced, ignored, oppressed and targeted for violence. We see this impact on our patients every day.
The Central York School District Board has reversed its previous decision and we applaud and stand with the students, families, staff and community members who bravely protested the ban. The collective action required to prompt the reversal of this decision will create many positive ripple effects. However, we know that our community will require ongoing action to address ongoing, systemic racism to begin to mitigate the impact of racism on the health of our community.
Family First Health strives for our work to be relevant, compassionate and responsive to all by closing the gap and raising the bar in addressing inequities in health. Through this, we all have the opportunity to achieve enhanced understanding to work together to build up our communities by changing systems, addressing challenges and seeking unity.
To demonstrate Family First Health’s ongoing support of diverse learning, we are installing a “Little Free Library,” supported by the United Way of York County, outside of our School-Based Health Center at Hannah Penn K-8 School. The library will include books by diverse authors and about diverse cultures. Through this effort, we will encourage and promote some of our youngest learners to remain curious about themselves, others and the world around them and pave the way for a healthier next generation.
Jenny Englerth is CEO of Family First Health.