A Health Equity Q&A with Lamond Daniels

Health Equity, Part 3

August 27, 2020

This final post in our first blog series on health equity gives you the opportunity to hear from a leader who has dedicated many years of his professional experience to advancing health equity within the various communities he has served.

We recently connected with Challenge Advisory Council member Lamond Daniels to reflect on the lessons learned from his work with the first cohort of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge and how that experience translates into his new role as the Chief of Community Services for the City of Norwalk, Connecticut.

From your experiences with the first cohort, what has health equity come to mean to you? What do you envision health equitable communities to look like?

There are a lot of definitions of equity. When I talk about equity, I am really talking about those who have been negatively impacted and marginalized. The work that is happening to improve outcomes must find meaningful ways to include those whose voice is often missing. This could mean having them at the table for discussion, but it must also mean having them involved in decision-making processes. For me, true authentic community engagement is a culture shift for how we as providers, organizations, and policymakers make decisions. I wouldn't consider myself a resident; I am professional and I can't speak to issues I may not have experienced. That is why you need to be intentional and include those who have lived experiences in change.

How have your experiences with the Challenge shaped the current work you are doing? 

One of the things I really enjoyed about the Challenge is partnering with a variety of communities across the country, from the east coast to the west coast, and it reinforced in me that you have to meet communities where they are. The Challenge really emphasized cross-sector collaboration and having other key stakeholders at the table. If we really want to make an impact, you can’t do this work in silos. I believe strongly that all sectors have a role in the well-being of the community. Look at an early childcare initiative, for example. The business community needs to be at the table because those young children will be their future employees and they need to make sure that they have what they need in order to prosper. I want different people at the table, and I need to be able to articulate why everyone is needed, and the Challenge helped me do that.

After seeing the success of the first cohort, and based on your experience at the city of Norwalk, what advice do you have for city and county health departments on how they can effectively co-create solutions that advance health equity using community-driven approaches? 

The municipality can’t do this alone, and we should not adopt this mindset that we can or should do it alone. So, we must think about how we can partner with our communities and take the journey together in identifying solutions. You’ve got to make community engagement a critical component of what you do.

What strategies have you seen implemented that have been successful in advancing health equity priorities in a short amount of time?  

In the community that I work in, there are some significant pockets of food-insecure neighborhoods, and we are identifying how to get food into these communities who are in need. Something we did, in addition to mobile food pickups, was asking families that were using our programs why other members of their community weren’t.  We then asked these same families would they be the ones to take information about these programs back to their community. Today, we are working with these individuals who are now community ambassadors for their neighborhood. We have residents who know the information and know how to talk about that information, and are organically empowered to go into their community and tell others that there is a service that can help them. I just learned we will also be able to provide a stipend for them.  

As a member of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Advisory Council, what are you most excited to see the cohort of 20 communities accomplish in the next two years? 

I'm excited to see how they engage residents. Even with the first cohort, everyone did it differently. I don't think there is one best way. I am thrilled to be a student again and learn about each of their approaches. 

As someone who has committed their professional life to advancing public health and well-being, what keeps you motivated to keep going even in challenging times like those we are facing right now?

I'm an adjunct professor at one of the state community colleges in Connecticut. So, every semester, I'm teaching the future: future clinicians, social workers, advocates, activists. That’s what keeps me motivated. Every semester, I am inspired again because I am constantly seeing people who want to change the world and make a difference. 

Additionally, I have made it one of my commitments to walk through communities periodically and talk to residents and hear their stories, their successes, and concerns. This is what keeps me rooted and grounded and shows me that there is still a passion for life. While we are certainly in uncertain times, I can still see the light at the tunnel. These communities are coming together and saying that they want to make a difference. That’s something that needs to be celebrated and recognized.

Lamond Daniels is a licensed social worker who has placed social well-being and health at the forefront of his career. Daniels obtained an MSW in Client-Centered Management, and an MPA in Public Administration and currently serves as the Chief of Community Services at the City of Norwalk, Connecticut. In this role, he works diligently to support the social services delivery system within Norwalk by overseeing the Health, Human Relations and Fair Rent, Human Services, Early Childhood and Youth Services departments, in addition to two of the city’s public libraries. He has centered health equity in Norwalk by connecting local residents to the resources and services that they need and formulating new partnerships between state and local agencies. Prior to his present-day role, Daniels worked as a consultant for the Aetna Foundation and assisted in coordinating the activities of the first cohort of the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge. He is now continuing his involvement in the Challenge by participating in the Advisory Council for the most current cohort of cities and counties.

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