A new Monroe County project seeks to give underrepresented communities voices in health policy decisions by connecting them with local leaders.
Community Voices for Health in Monroe County is a project working to give underrepresented communities more space in decision-making about public health, said Jill Jolliff, the community engagement and communications director of the project. The project is led by the Community Justice and Mediation Center and the Bloomington Health Foundation.
The goal of the project is to develop sustainable relationships between underrepresented groups and community leaders, such as members of the mayor, county commissioners and members of the city and county councils about health policy decision-making, Jolliff said.
“Our hope is that it will inspire our local community to think differently about how they receive input from the community and help them find ways to broaden the scope of the people that they're hearing from so that they're not just hearing from the same people,” she said.
Through focus groups, phone interviews and a survey, CVHMC found issues residents had included health insurance, affordable health services and social determinants of health, such as homelessness and food insecurity.
The project works to join community members and leaders in meaningful ways around topics that affect health and go beyond the three minutes at the microphone mode of public meetings, Jolliff said.
Jolliff said spoken or written comments at public meetings aren’t accessible ways for everyone to voice their concerns. Those who have kids, don’t have access to transportation or are disenfranchised may not have time or feel comfortable speaking at public meetings, she said.
“So the idea here is to develop, to sort of deepen the democratic process and develop a way for the elected officials and other decision-makers to hear from hopefully everybody,” she said.
CJAM and the BHF were jointly awarded a 30-month grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to analyze current practices, identify gaps and develop a model for community engagement that is equitable and inclusive, Jolliff said.
CVHMC will soon conduct meetings between community members and local decision-makers to move toward solutions. These meetings will be in-person and over Zoom and are open to everyone.
Unlike public meetings, members will not be restricted to three minutes. The project hopes to give a voice to those who may not typically attend public meetings or follow local politics, Jolliff said.
The first of these meetings will be Aug. 29 at the Monroe County Public Library from 3 to 5 p.m. The second meeting will be on Zoom Sept. 14, and the third on Oct. 14 with a location to be announced. More information about these sessions can be found on CJAM’s website.