Preparing for Partnership & Collaboration in 2024

CEO Sarah de Guia reflects on takeaways from 2023 to apply in the new year

As I reflect on our accomplishments at ChangeLab Solutions in 2023, I celebrate the amazing and effective work of our team. Our organizational values, which ground our work, include collaboration and learning, and with the support of our funders and partners, we have trained, engaged, or connected with over 28,000 public health practitioners in close to 3,000 communities across the nation. The ChangeLab team has produced groundbreaking legal and policy analysis, products, and toolkits that are guiding community partners in their advocacy campaigns, helping government partners to implement programs in more equitable ways, and supporting changemakers in identifying pressing community priorities from Georgia to Colorado, from Texas to Illinois, and in many more places.

As we plan for 2024, a year that will require resilience and flexibility, I am thinking about ways to build on these successes and integrate important lessons learned, knowing that public health resources are limited, communities are divided, and priorities will be tested. Here are some important takeaways from the past year that I am carrying forward into next year:

Building on Successes in 2024

Partnerships are central to successful policy change. In our cross-sector partnerships, we are seeing pathways to real progress in reducing structural discrimination. Whether through the BUILD Health Challenge, the Housing Solutions Collaborative, or Act for Public Health, we are practicing the art of listening and learning, being flexible, and centering equity in all that we do. 2024 will be a pivotal year, and with the groundwork we’ve laid in partnership with many across the country, we are ready to continue advancing healthy, equitable communities.

Community partners regularly share that the support ChangeLab provides is exceptional and critical to the changes — in systems, policies, ways of working, and funding streams — that they achieve. One partner recently stated that “the team at ChangeLab Solutions has also served as an advisor and thought partner. They are consistently reliable, well-organized, and well-connected to peers and learnings in the field.”

Focusing on rural health and prosperity must be a priority for all of us. This year, in collaboration with the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group’s Thrive Rural project, The Praxis Project, and many others, ChangeLab finalized a two-year project to explore policies and strategies to support rural communities in advancing health equity and equitable development. Through our deep dive into rural strengths, assets, and needs, we learned that rural BIPOC communities often face multiple layers of structural discrimination, partly due to their invisibility as rural residents and continuing disinvestment in rural communities. We hope that the research, messages, and policy ideas we’ve developed in partnership with our colleagues, other practitioners, and community stakeholders will be useful to community-based organizations, local and state policymakers, and others who seek to make meaningful change for rural BIPOC residents. In national dialogue with government partners and funders, we will continue to elevate opportunities and partnerships that focus on rural BIPOC communities.

Public health practitioners are necessary to achieve structural change in law and policy. ChangeLab is proud to be a leader and a partner in expanding and offering trainings in equitable policymaking to the public health workforce. Our current Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort is helping public health practitioners learn how to measure the impacts of law and policy. Our free web-based Public Health Law Academy trainings ground public health practitioners in fundamental legal concepts and essential topics such as preemption, social determinants of health, and overdose prevention. Our new report Public Health Law Training for Future Public Health Practitioners identifies ways that academic programs can increase training and educational opportunities that will allow them to better prepare the public health workforce. Now, more than ever, we have opportunities to expand and improve the public health workforce, and ChangeLab is excited to be part of this momentum.

Describing our work with practitioners, one of our partners said, “During the period of our collaboration, ChangeLab Solutions consistently demonstrated attentive support to our training needs and provided subject-matter expertise in legal and policy analysis. They worked with us to meet our internal workforce development goals with high-quality trainings, technical assistance, and legal epidemiology resources.”

Centering equity in the implementation and enforcement of laws is key to eliminating structural discrimination. It takes tremendous effort to get equity-promoting policies passed, but the work doesn’t stop there. For over two decades, ChangeLab has been working with changemakers on implementation and enforcement of policies, an important but often-overlooked aspect of policymaking. We help changemakers make equitable laws a reality through thoughtful, community-centered implementation and compliance strategies. A recent cohort participant put it this way: “I loved putting the lesson into action; it helped bring the abstract into more concrete thought.” Our 2023 Equity in Action webinar series features partners, government and community leaders, and researchers who highlight successes in rural health equity, equitable enforcement, fair labor practices, and housing equity. Our new resources on equitable enforcement principles and practices offer strategies to minimize harm to people affected by health inequities while promoting compliance with public health policies. And I am proud to share our companion resources to A Blueprint for Changemakers: Strategies for Equitable Policymaking, which includes concrete tools, solutions, and successes, and Undoing the Drivers of Health Inequity, an interactive web tool that provides access to real-world examples and resources that address the five fundamental drivers of health inequity.

Looking Forward to 2024

We move into 2024 with many impactful achievements toward improving the public’s health. Strengthened by internal equity work in our organization, the ChangeLab team is ready, resilient, and recommitted to building community power, advancing justice, and supporting health for all. We look forward to working with you in 2024.

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