Dear Colleagues and Community Members,
On this Juneteenth, as Americans commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, it is a time to pause and reflect on our past, analyze our present, and plot a path forward together to create a better future for all.
It was on this date, June 19, back in 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived with Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas. He announced the Civil War was over and enslaved African Americans were free. The General’s order stated, “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights.” This was nearly two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. More than 150 years later, as our country celebrates Emancipation Day, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day and Freedom Day, it is clear the work toward equality must continue.
The events that transpired over the past few weeks have underlined disparities that still exist a century-and-a-half later, and sparked a louder call for change across the nation. The death of George Floyd, and the protests and events that followed, have deeply impacted us all and inspired heightened community conversations that, I believe, can lead to positive change as words turn into actions.
At ThedaCare, we are on an important journey as we transform into a leader in Population Health as we predict and prevent health needs, and create healthier people in all the communities we serve. Part of this evolution is understanding the factors that determine health and wellbeing, and working as a catalyst in our communities to bring sustainable change to those factors.
Several studies indicate health outcomes are impacted by many dimensions, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, geography, gender, disability status and sexual orientation. Addressing disparities is becoming increasingly important as our population continues to become more diverse. Our mission is to improve the health outcomes and wellness of each person, and we must work as communities to advance equity.
One such program started in 2018 when ThedaCare’s Community Health Action Team worked with African Heritage Inc., Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley, area education institutions and other organizations in the Fox Cities to implement the STAR program—Scholars on Target to Achieve Results—in numerous middle and high schools in the Appleton and Menasha school districts. It was the result of an in-depth study examining the opportunity gaps in education that African American students encounter in the Fox Cities area. With the goals of increasing graduation rates, post-secondary enrollment rates and school engagement, the program has successfully resulted in 40% improved grade point averages, 62% increased school attendance and much more.
In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to continuing collaborative efforts and sharing more as we evolve in Population Health as a partner in the health and wellbeing of every community and individual we serve. We vow to continue to work with area organizations, identify health needs and, in partnership with our communities, implement and support programs for lasting change.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout history that still rings true today, it’s that we are better and stronger together. Each of us serves as an important piece in the collective puzzle of change. The dialogue must continue to identify and find new opportunities for growth. Through collaboration, we can close disparities of health, improve outcomes and create the equity that those on Juneteenth envisioned for our communities today.
Imran A. Andrabi, MD FAAFP
President and CEO