Shifting and Sharing Power: Public Health’s Charge in Building Community Power

Local health departments around the country are committing to end structural racism as a strategy to achieve health equity. Many local and state governments are passing resolutions and training staff on equity, creating and implementing work plans, and shifting organizational policies, practices, and culture to advance equity. At the same time, health departments are starting to acknowledge and investigate the concept of power. Building power at a small scale within historically marginalized communities has the potential to transform how decisions are made, by whom, for whom, and with whom—all of which lead to improved health equity outcomes. Community power building is not only a process to achieving health equity, but is an outcome in and of itself.

This article by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) describes frameworks to explore the concepts of power dynamics and community power building; how health departments’ explicit support for power building with grassroots community organizations is a strategy to achieve health equity; and relevant examples and resources for health departments.