Multnomah County, OR Health Equity Initiative

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Multnomah County, OR, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Launched in June 2007

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The Health Equity Initiative works to address the root causes of socioeconomic and racial injustices that lead to health disparities.

About Us
Multnomah County is committed to improving health for all Multnomah County residents by addressing the social conditions in which people live and work. Launched in June 2007, the Health Equity Initiative is a county-wide effort focusing on health inequities, headed by Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Health Department. It also collaborates with local organizations to support policy change and monitor results. The initial work will be completed in June 2009.


  • to create a common understanding of the causes of and solutions to health inequities, with a focus on justice and equity.
  • to raise the visibility of current disparities elimination efforts of community-based organizations and county departments.
  • to explore and advance policy solutions to address health inequities.

Health Is More Than Health Care!
There is much more to our health than bad habits, health care or genes. What matters most are the social conditions that make us sick in the first place. Social factors we don't usually associate with health—good jobs, affordable housing, a clean environment, sick leave, and a quality education—are just as important for health as efforts to get people to eat right, exercise more and stop smoking.

What Are Health Disparities?
Population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health or access to care. For example, did you know that African American men in Multnomah County are 40% more likely than white men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 2 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men? Health disparities are not “natural;” racism and social class play a role in this disparity. Why Are Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Important to Identify?

Factors leading to these disparities can be changed. The Health Equity Initiative is an important step towards eliminating health disparities, and for assuring a healthy community for all Multnomah County residents.

What Can You Do?
We invite you to join us in a community dialogue about the root causes of health disparities and long-term solutions. Beginning in March, 2008, a PBS documentary Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? will explore how inequalities in housing, health, jobs, and education—combined with a lack of power and control over one's life—can translate into bad health and even death. Multnomah County will be one of many communites across the country to feature this documentary in a series of public screenings. Watch the film, then join the discussion.