The brutal police murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, activated a phone tree between three leading public health advocates that eventually led to a new racial justice initiative launched just earlier this month.

“We recognized the need to go beyond the declarations of racism as a public health crisis, which now more than 200 enlightened communities have made,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin during a Monday APHA 2021 session about the new initiative, known as Healing Through Policy: Creating Pathways to Racial Justice. “They needed to know how to take next steps.”

Healing Through Policy: Creating Pathways to Racial JusticeAPHA launched Healing Through Policy with the help of Benjamin’s phone tree friends: Brian Castrucci, president and CEO at the de Beaumont Foundation, and Gail Christopher, president of the National Collaborative for Health Equity.

“Policy is the prescription for better health,” Castrucci told session attendees.. “We said, ‘Let’s help communities advance the policies they need to achieve racial healing. Let’s give them a guidebook based on the work of so many others leading in this space.’”

But, as Benjamin said, “to give them that, we needed a fundamental framework, a way of thinking about the problem.” That’s where the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation framework came in.

Developed by Christopher in 2017 during her time at the philanthropic organization, the framework helped guide a policy advisory committee in selecting the Healing Through Policy initiative’s suite of racial equity policies and practices localities can use to promote racial healing and address social inequities.

“We all wanted to stand up for fairness and equity after the brutal murder of George Floyd.” Christopher told session attendees. “It made sense that the philanthropy community would offer a way forward. The framework is a comprehensive approach that says, undoing centuries of a false ideology of a hierarchy of human value takes multiple efforts on multiple fronts.”

Christopher outlined the framework’s five pillars: narrative change; racial healing and relationship building; separation; economy; and law. Session speaker Tia Taylor Williams, director of APHA’s Center for Public Health Policy, also described the principles and criteria upon which the Healing Through Policy suite was selected.

In coming years, Healing Through Policy partners plan to provide technical assistance to local governments and community leaders who engage with the new suite of policies and practices.

Visit APHA's Healing Through Policy page for more information. And check out APHA’s easy-to-use map of U.S. racism declarations.