A group of Orange County Health Department (OCHD) staff gathered together in spring 2017 to further explore what was learned during previously attended racial equity training. Staff later created the Racial Equity Commission (REC) which formalized in November 2017. A charter was developed to guide the work, outlining the vision, mission, and goals. REC is working to apply a diverse, inclusive, and racially equitable lens to internal organizational processes in order to dismantle structural racism.
REC envisions an organization where racial equity is a priority and is constantly examined both internally and externally. REC’s mission is to serve as a catalyst to ensure that racial equity is an active agent throughout all organizational processes of the OCHD. REC hopes to accomplish this mission by increasing participation of staff in racial equity training and conversations; creating a racially equitable environment within OCHD; supporting and encouraging the use of affinity group caucusing; cultivating continuous departmental conversations around equity; creating formalized supported systems for those burdened by racism; and developing racially equitable programs and policies for OCHD’s work in the community.
Led by a chair and co-chair, REC is a nine-member volunteer team in which five seats are designated to represent each division and four seats are open to any interested staff member. REC strives to include members who are diverse in race, ethnicity, age, religion, and gender. In order to establish a common language, members are required to attend racial equity training prior to joining. REC currently has three subcommittees that include Communication, Tracking and Training, and Media Review.
Since inception, REC has/is:
• Established a reoccurring monthly section of the departmental newsletter in which REC submits articles that covers a variety of equity resources and information such as racial equity training opportunities, books, articles, or podcasts to further develop their equity lens.
• Attended PolicyLink’s Equity Summit 2018 in Chicago along with a delegation of community partners.
• Received funding support from the Board of Health, OCHD, and Triangle Community Foundation to begin a process of strategic planning to help assess the inequities within the organization.
• Developing a strategic plan with the support and involvement of the OCHD Leadership team that will outline action steps to inject equity within the policies, practices, procedures, and culture of OCHD.
• Accepting invitations from multiple divisions to speak about the work of REC, address concerns, and answer questions.
• Worked with management and leadership teams to be included as a standing agenda item at every quarterly meeting.
• Tracking staff attendance at racial equity training. Currently, 52% of staff has attended racial equity training.
• Updated the department’s Diversity Policy which is now titled Inclusionary Practices Policy.
• Supporting various learning communities within the department including affinity caucusing and the Race Equity Book Club.
Most recently OCHD became a recipient of the 474 CLAS Standard Advancing Health Equity Agreement Addendum, awarded to 9 counties across NC by the NC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. The department formed the Health Equity Council (HEC) which consists of REC as well as community partners to address health and racial equity within the department and Orange County. HEC is charged with gathering data, sending staff and community partners to health and racial equity training, and promoting CLAS (Culturally Linguistically Appropriate Services) in the community.