A multisectoral approach to advance health equity in rural northern Arizona: county-level leaders’ perspectives on health equity



Abstract Background Multisectoral and public–private partnerships are critical in building the necessary infrastructure, policy, and political will to ameliorate health inequity. A focus on health equity by researchers, practitioners, and decision-makers prioritizes action to address the systematic, avoidable, and unjust differences in health status across population groups sustained over time and generations that are beyond the control of individuals. Health equity requires a collective process in shaping the health and wellbeing of the communities in which we live, learn, work, play, and grow. This paper explores multisectoral leaders’ understanding of the social, environmental, and economic conditions that produce and sustain health inequity in northern Arizona, a geographically expansive, largely rural, and culturally diverse region. Methods Data are drawn from the Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative’s Regional Health Equity Survey (RHES). The RHES is a community-engaged, cross-sectional online survey comprised of 31 close-ended and 17 open-ended questions. Created to assess cross-sectoral regional and collective capacity to address health inequity and inform multisectoral action for improving community health, the RHES targeted leaders representing five rural northern Arizona counties and 13 sectors. Select open-ended questions were analyzed using an a priori coding scheme and emergent coding with thematic analysis. Results Although leaders were provided the definition and asked to describe the root causes of inequities, the majority of leaders described social determinants of health (SDoH). When leaders described root causes of health inequity, they articulated systemic factors affecting their communities, describing discrimination and unequal allocation of power and resources. Most leaders described the SDoH by discussing compounding factors of poverty, transportation, housing, and rurality among others, that together exacerbate inequity. Leaders also identified specific strategies to address SDoH and advance health equity in their communities, ranging from providing direct services to activating partnerships across organizations and sectors in advocacy for policy change. Conclusion Our findings indicate that community leaders in the northern Arizona region acknowledge the importance of multisectoral collaborations in improving health equity for the populations that they serve. However, a common understanding of health equity remains to be widely established, which is essential for conducting effective multisectoral work to advance health equity.
Date made available2022

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