About 40 to 50 percent of a person’s health is a product of society. And conditions in society today make good health challenging for many. Housing, education, transportation, employment, structural racism, access to healthcare and technology — all of these systems affect behavioral choices and thus the state of a person’s health. 

That was the message of Natalie Burke, President and CEO of CommonHEALTH Action and keynote speaker for the 2018 Greater Hampton Roads Population Health Summit that took place Nov. 27 at EVMS. 

A nationally known expert on health equity, Ms. Burke is Co-Director of the Culture of Health Leaders National Program Center, Director of the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Equitable Leadership, and member of the Institute for Health Improvement’s Equity Advisory Group. She conducted federal health policy analyses at the National Health Policy Forum and served on staff at the National Institutes of Health. 

In her presentation “Improving Health Through the Lens of Equity,” she emphasized the importance of a common language and shared values for accomplishing collaborative public-health work. For example, the term “health equity,” she clarified, is the attainment of the highest level of health for all people, while “health disparities” are simply the differences in health statuses or health outcomes between groups of people. 

Her presentation also covered the historical context of health inequities, explained privilege and oppression as progenitors of disease and early death, explored equitable leadership in practice, and reviewed other aspects of the social determinants of health. 

The day-long summit also included the launch of the Greater Hampton Roads Community Indicators Dashboard, a presentation on Medicaid Expansion in Virginia, and two panel discussions on health equity partnerships and initiatives moderated by Barbara Hamm Lee, executive producer and host of 89.5 WHRV-FM’s “Another View.” 

The free event drew 180 attendees from around the region and was streamed online.