HEW News

Introducing Health Equity Works

We have some very exciting news to share about the future of our work. Our team has spent several months taking stock of what we are best positioned to do in the world. It has been an immeasurably valuable exercise that led to the transition we are beginning today from For the Sake of All to Health Equity Works.

Dr. Jason Q. Purnell

We have developed and refined a way of partnering with the community to present data in accessible ways. We’ve raised awareness about the diverse set of factors that influence health beyond health care – like education, discrimination, housing, and income. We also believe we’ve had success at identifying areas of opportunity for advancing equity and inspiring a diverse set of stakeholders to transform awareness into action. And we think that model for engaging with communities is transferable and replicable.

Our work has already begun to have impact both inside and outside of St. Louis, in large part thanks to a tremendous team and amazing partners:

  • We are gratified to stand alongside partners who have opened and sustained school-based health centers and whose work regionally has grown to include statewide support for this important resource through Show Me School-Based Health, a Missouri affiliate of the national School-Based Health Alliance.
  • We’re strategizing with partners and stakeholders to provide college savings for our region’s children through the St. Louis Regional Child Development Account Collaborative.
  • An initial partnership with Emmanuel Episcopal Church has grown into an independent initiative called Faith and For the Sake of All, which is educating and mobilizing faith communities to respond to inequity.
  • Just within the last week, several of our partners on the new report, Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide, joined a task force to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund for St. Louis County, one of the report’s recommendations.
  • We’re also proud to partner with America’s Promise Alliance and Child Trends on a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, called “Together for Healthy and Successful Schools,” that is looking at ways to enhance and align health supports in schools across the country.

While this important body of work started with a report released in May of 2014, we’ve come to recognize that the report cannot be the entire story. What we are doing is about more than a report. It always had been. We have been engaged in an effort to change the trajectory of opportunity in the St. Louis region, and we’ve been joined by remarkable people and organizations along the way who are just as deeply committed to making the promises of health and well-being available across every zip code, municipality, and neighborhood. And we’ve learned so much in these past few years—about strategic communication and storytelling, about coordination and collaboration, about moving from recommendation to action. We’ve learned from our accomplishments as well as our mistakes, refining a model designed to bring change that is informed both by data and by communities.

Project team at 2017 holiday celebration. From l to r: Anne Milne, Nancy Cambria, Rachel Barth, Laura Brossart, Jasmine Burris, Jason Purnell, Nikole Lobb Dougherty, Aviva Needle, Airianne Posey, Michelle Witthaus, Irum Javed, Emily Kryzer, and Sheree Hickman

And we will continue to refine and iterate on that model through Health Equity Works. I like our new name because it is both a statement and a powerful image. Everything we do is predicated on the idea that health equity works, not just to the benefit of communities and populations impacted by decades of exclusion from opportunity, but for everyone. And we remain committed to the principle that communicating the benefit for everyone must be part of any strategy for sustainable change. Health Equity Works also has creative, collaborative allusions to the kind of workshop that produces useful machinery and tools. But the “machines” in this case are the systems that must be rebuilt in order to produce health equity, and the “tools” are the methods, techniques, and strategies for accomplishing that rebuilding. We think our new logo beautifully captures this dual meaning of the name, and I hope that you agree.

We are going to continue to work with communities to identify the best ways to drive action towards health equity. We are also committed to continuing to support the critical work that is already underway. We remain focused on a strong start in the earliest years of life, holistic supports in schools, and neighborhoods where everyone has access to opportunity. We’re also exploring new ways in which we can bring our skills to new communities seeking change.

We are at a critical point in the history of our nation and our world. Now more than ever, we need our plans and our actions to be guided by the best available evidence. Now more than ever, we need to find ways to work together across sectors and neighborhoods, ideologies and backgrounds, to build the society that we want to be part of—a society that finally includes everyone in its promises of freedom and flourishing. We believe we have a role to play in that needed transformation. Indeed, we believe that the future depends upon it. We believe health equity works in St. Louis and beyond.

And our work together continues.

For more information on our name change, visit our FAQ page.


  1. Appreciate your great work and wanted to be sure you are aware that another recommendation from Dismantling the Divide is being implemented by US Arbitration & Mediation with the Bar Assn of Metro STL. A program was already providing no-cost mediation for disputes in the landlord/tenant court in the city (collaboratively with the law school at WUSTL ) . That approach is now being tested in one docket of the county courts, with the goal of proving its worth and ultimately expanding through the county court system. One step at a time …

    1. Thank you, Nancy. It sounds like a great program to prevent evictions and stabilize housing. Indeed, one step at a time.

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