No matter what issues you focus on, it’s been a hard year for health, safety, and wellbeing in the US. As we come to the end of 2018, we find ourselves looking for bright spots and want to share a few successes. Collectively, they remind us how critical it is to continue fighting against the barrage of threats to the most vulnerable in our society while also working toward a healthier and more just future.
Health equity advocates preserved more than $50 million in funding for REACH
After originally having been zeroed out in Congressional spending bills, the CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program was funded in 2018, thanks to the efforts of health equity advocates. REACH is currently the only federal source of community-based health funding to address racial and ethnic health disparities.
Youth activists revived the movement to prevent gun violence
Following the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young people around the country reinvigorated the movement to end gun violence, organizing marches, student walk outs, and lobbying days. Their efforts—which are ongoing—fundamentally shifted the conversation about guns from a sole focus on the right to bear arms to a focus on the right to be safe.
Milwaukee is showing violence IS preventable through comprehensive approaches
Milwaukee’s homicide rate has gone down for the third year in a row, which the director of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention attributes to the tireless work that went into the development and implementation of Milwaukee’s Blueprint for Peace. The creation of the Blueprint brought together community members, city agencies, and organizations to advance a coordinated public health approach to violence prevention.
Floridians restored voting rights to people with felony records
Florida voters restored voting rights to 1.5 million people with felony records who have completed their sentences. The ability to influence the events that shape life’s circumstances—through means such as voting—is a critical element needed for people and communities to flourish emotionally.
Immigrants, their supporters, and the US legal system stood up for immigrant rights
In the face of repeated and ongoing attacks, millions of people rallied, marched, spoke out, and submitted official public comments in support of immigrants’ health, safety, and wellbeing. They overturned the Department of Homeland Security’s family separation policy and stopped numerous policy changes that would have harmed immigrants and their families.
Congress rejected cuts to food assistance
A bipartisan majority in Congress rebuffed efforts to include strict work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in the 2018 Farm Bill. If implemented, the work requirements and other proposed changes to SNAP would have increased hunger and worsened health inequity. (NOTE: If the USDA has its way, this may not be a lasting victory.
Los Angeles invested in equity and resilience
After 10 years of advocacy by street vendors, the City of Los Angeles legalized street vending. This victory provides new economic and legal security for this vital, largely immigrant workforce and opens innovation pathways for healthy food access in disadvantaged communities. Additionally, the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority adopted a Metro Equity Platform Framework, and LA voters approved the Safe, Clean Water Program, to fund green infrastructure projects.
Minimum-wage increases were approved in Missouri and Arkansas
Missouri and Arkansas voters approved state-wide minimum wage increases in the 2018 midterm elections, a move that will benefit hundreds of thousands of minimum-wage workers in those states. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 23 states will increase their minimum wages in 2019. Health outcomes are powerfully influenced by social and economic factors, including income and wealth.
The ozone layer is healing
According to the United Nations, the ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, is slowly healing, as a result of an international agreement in 1987 to reduce the production and use of ozone-depleting substances like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Exposure to UV rays can cause health conditions like skin cancer.
Five states decided to expand Medicaid coverage
Thanks to the actions of voters and elected officials, Medicaid coverage will be expanded in Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Maine, and Virginia in 2019. This expansion will mean that hundreds of thousands of people will gain access to health coverage.
Since this list of 2018 prevention and equity successes is far from exhaustive, we invite you to join us on Facebook to share other successes that will inspire all of us as we continue our important work in 2019 to maintain our gains, push back against threats to communities and individuals, and establish a long-term plan for ensuring that everyone achieves health, safety, and wellbeing through thriving equitable communities.
Photo Credit: Central Ohio Worker Center