In some ways the past 12 months have been a lost year. How often I have found myself reflecting on an event “last summer” and then realizing that it happened in 2019. In other ways, this has been very much a found year, a year of discovery, a year where the scales have been peeled back from my eyes. And it’s been a year of conscience, where the question is this: having seen what we have seen, how will we act?
Personally, there have been moments of flourishing – as in a few Saturdays ago, when I was able to hug my grandchildren for the first time in a year. Moving back to hugging and visiting inside the homes of our four-generation family, including my own dear parents — finally coming in from the makeshift heated patio encampment we created last fall.
There were moments of restoration and relief as the angst related to the social and political environment of the past few years — and the grief from events of the past year in particular — have begun to settle to a calmer level of sanity in some ways, and re-emerge with greater urgency in others.
Every one of us has these stories (and bruised knees, and new hopes) to tell, at home and in community.
One community example we’ve experienced at this Institute for a Healthier Community is the work of a growing Vaccine Equity Partnership – 24 local organizations devoted to reducing disparities in access to Covid-19 vaccine today, and health access more broadly in the future. To date, over 3,000 vaccinations have been given to those who were otherwise hindered by cultural and physical barriers. And with the FDA approval of Pfizer for ages 12-plus on May 10, our partners are reinvigorating efforts to reach young along with those who are vaccine-hesitant.
The partnership reinforces how our community can indeed rise to the occasion, working with and trusting partners who closely serve the residents of our county who have greatest vulnerability and barriers to vaccine access. We are honored to be a supporting partner of this group.
This year’s Vaccine Equity Partnership is the natural evolution of last year’s (ongoing) Snohomish County Mask Brigade, a phalanx of volunteer drivers lovingly gathering masks from faithful mask-makers each Friday — 5, 10, 100 at a time. Then, gathering in the church basement headquarters of Interfaith to repackage and deliver the masks to organizations whose clients were most in need. Dozens of volunteer drivers and hundreds of mask-makers ultimately delivered nearly 37,000 carefully handmade gifts of love over the past year.
This partnership is more than transactional, more than merely counting masks and vaccines delivered. The partnership is evolving its work from Mask Equity yesterday, to Vaccine Equity today, to Health Equity tomorrow — defined as far more than clinical healthcare equity. Our children, grandchildren, and communities will teach us together what true health equity needs to look like.
PIHC’s chief goal is to equip individuals and communities to enhance their health and well-being on terms defined by the communities themselves. Face it: our communities have everything they need to flourish, if we can hear and trust the wisdom we are missing.
In decades past, the Era of Medical Technology made incredible gains to lifespan and quality. But the next big gains will come not from healthcare systems, not from governments, not from business (though all must lend support). The next chapter belongs to our community partners — institutions that provide for social and basic needs — and our most important task is to listen to each other with new ears.
And then act together as communities.
And this community has everything it needs to flourish.
In good health,