April is National Minority Health Month, and this year we sat down with Shivonne Laird – our system director of community health impact – to talk about the work she and her team do in creating our ministry’s gold standard approaches to community health.
“A lot of my work is related to the measurement and evaluation of the impact of programs and initiatives that are community-facing, always using an equity lens,” Shivonne shares. “I’m able to support the development of methodology to document the existence of disparities in health and health care and then chart a course towards disparities reduction – while documenting our progress.”
It’s challenging work, but Shivonne has inspiration that goes back generations.
“As a person who identifies as both Black and Latina, among other categories, I know that both communities have often fallen victim to systemic biases and have seen first-hand what this means for health myself, in my family and in the communities I have served,” she shares. “No one should see their opportunity for peak wellness taken away because of their race and/or ethnicity. I will always do all I can, no matter how small, to help reduce these kind of barriers to health and well-being.”
Shivonne took some time to reflect on a story from a time when she realized she was truly in a place where she could make a difference.
“Once, I was in a community focus group where some team members were sharing our desire to improve the availability of affordable housing, one of the many social influencers of health,” she shares. “In the middle of the meeting, a community member asked, ‘Why is Mercy Health doing this? What’s in it for you?’ But we have always done this. It’s part of who we are and why our health system exists. It is built into the DNA or fabric of our organization, as we build on the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of the Humility of Mary.”
Shivonne adds, “I feel genuinely blessed to be a part of that legacy.”
Shivonne does not work alone in her efforts to improve health care equity. There are a lot of people supporting and prioritizing her work – from the top down.
“John Starcher, CEO, and Brian Smith, COO, created a stand-alone community health department, and have helped our ministry elevate both clinical and non-clinical approaches to improve health, well-being and health equity,” Shivonne says. “Additionally, Dr. Ellen Bentz on the nursing quality team always impresses and inspires me by her commitment to health equity, and her action-oriented approach.”
She continues, “my role feels like it was a lot of moving parts, but that’s OK. I’m OK working on whatever is needed, using all the experience and skills I have attained over the years to reduce health disparities. The problem itself is massive and will require many people of many backgrounds to address it.”
Visit our website see our community health needs assessment and learn more about what we’re doing in our community health efforts.