Contagious Conversations Podcast with Sarah de Guia

CEO Sarah de Guia discusses the state of health equity with CDC Foundation

How can law and policy be used to create more equitable communities? How can we better engage with communities to advance public health goals? In the CDC Foundation’s latest podcast from Contagious Conversations, ChangeLab Solutions CEO Sarah de Guia explores pressing questions in the field of public health.

Tracing the arc of her personal and family histories and extensive legal background, this episode highlights the roots of de Guia’s passion for health equity and how that passion has molded her into a leader in public health law and policy. After working on groundbreaking legislation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and focusing on racial justice and public health at the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, de Guia was a natural fit for leadership at ChangeLab Solutions, which allowed her to continue to address the issues at the center of her career — but now on a national scale.

"Public health without equity will lead to disparities."

In its early tobacco prevention work, according to de Guia, ChangeLab Solutions was using legal and policy tools to address public health issues from a systems and environmental perspective — for example, through land use and First Amendment issues. She remembers, “That's exactly the way that I wanted to use law and policy.” De Guia goes on to recall how ChangeLab Solutions pivoted their central strategy to focus on the five fundamental drivers of health inequities when data revealed that “public health without equity will lead to disparities” — a central tenet of de Guia’s career. “These five drivers shape everything around us — where we live and how we experience life. The opportunities that we have. The power or the leverage of our voice.  . . . As public health practitioners, we have not only the opportunity but the imperative to focus on the five drivers. Law is a critical component of our success.”

"As public health practitioners, we have not only the opportunity but the imperative to focus on the five drivers of health inequity. Law is a critical component of our success.”

In this conversation, de Guia sheds light on key challenges facing public health today, from engaging community members in the policymaking process to countering the mounting threats of preemption. She says, “We are currently seeing about a thousand bills that would seek to roll back the authority of public health officials. That's the exact opposite of what we need to do right now. Instead, we need to be asking, how can we improve our knowledge of law and policy? How can we make sure that public health officials have the tools they need to be able to improve our health?” Listen to the podcast to find out how these solutions can be applied in practice.

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.