Podcast: An Equitable Approach to Community Health Planning in Garrett County, MD

Shelley Argabrite, Garrett County Health Department

Podcast host Peter Eckart met up with Shelley Argabrite, health planner for Garrett County Health Department, while they were both at the Communities Joined in Action conference in Atlanta, GA. Shelley explained how the health department has developed a digital data platform that has transformed the way they engage hard-to-reach rural residents in community health planning, making the process more equitable and using multi-sector data to drive decision-making. She also shared how, with funding from the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI), Garret County Health Department is working to make the digital tool available to other communities across the U.S.

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Takeaways from the Interview

In the words of Shelley Argabrite…

Collect and integrate community feedback into planning processes

“Emerging priorities came about, things like food insecurity, adolescent drug use, homelessness—things that were uncomfortable for a small community to talk about but that actually do exist. That community conversation and that dialogue helped move these new priorities into our action planning, which is profound because even though the community knew it existed, certain leadership and the nature of the way that we’ve always done things didn’t allow us to look at those issues.”

Relationships and a shared vision are key to success.

“The most powerful determinant to success is our relationships. Although people have all kinds of different structures and approaches, the way that I work with collaborators, team members, partners, stakeholders, and community members is working through a shared vision with purpose, built upon trust, and recognizing the value and contribution of every single person.”

Don’t hesitate to challenge the status quo to ensure the community’s voice is heard

“I often hear statements from colleagues like, ‘we tried to engage them, but no one showed up.’ So I think a radical change is absolutely needed to rid ourselves of this ‘us’ and ‘them’ notion. The only way forward is ‘we.’ It’s how we work together, and it’s involving people that are traditionally excluded from decision-making conversations. It has to be the new norm that we include everyone.”

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