In 2018, the Virginia Department of Health Office of Health Equity celebrated a week of events to bring attention to Henrietta Lacks, a Virginia hidden figure in health and medicine. These events also showcased the launch of a commission in her name, working to establish a biomedical cancer research center in her hometown. On the foot heals of this event, the office assembled 200 health professionals from private, government, and nonprofit organizations at its health equity conference and trained them on racial bias. The office has also adopted the VDH JustHealth as its brand to signal its focus on justice and equity in health for every individual that faces discrimination due to race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and religion.
Members of various central office divisions and local health districts throughout the state have also participated in Undoing Racism training, and are actively implementing lessons learned from these training opportunities.
The Virginia Department of Health is comprised of roughly 3,000 employees who are dispatched throughout the entire state. As the State’s lead agency for public health, we recognize that it is important to the work that we do, and the people that we serve, to be truthful about the impacts of racism and discrimination on health outcomes. Given recent and historic events, the agency and leadership recognize the importance of fostering on-going meaningful discussions, learning opportunities, and expectations around embracing equity in all facets of our work. We look froward to seeking support and guidance from the GARE team, and other participating jurisdictions around the country, to achieve this goal.