By Solange Gould, Sophia Simon-Ortiz, and Shannon Tracey

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Let’s use this election to shift ​who​ holds power, ​how​ power is held, and what​ collective power looks like, to advance health equity.

This election, we have the power to transform the terrain upon which the health of our communities depends. To cultivate collective health, we can use the power of our votes to overhaul and transform existing systems of oppression.

We’re all feeling the high stakes, heartache, and anxiety of this election. The decades-long attack on our public sector infrastructure has limited our ability to respond to COVID-19, and has left many at risk, overwhelmed, and harmed. And structural oppression — including racism, patriarchy, corporate power, militarism, and capitalism — is both driving deepening inequities across the social determinants of health, and is the root cause of current and historic voter disenfranchisement. The struggle for our liberation and wellbeing has reached a decisive moment. …

By Christine Mitchell, Lien Pham, and Narissa Pham

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Tien Pham (second from left) with his family, at his high school graduation in Santa Clara Juvenile Hall

On August 31st, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom transferred Tien Pham from San Quentin State Prison in California to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at a detention center in Colorado. Tien is a Vietnamese refugee who was charged as an adult at the age of 17, and was recently found suitable for parole after 2 decades of incarceration. But because of direct ICE transfers — a practice where jails and prisons transfer people directly to ICE custody for detention and deportation upon release — he is now separated from his family by thousands of miles, which has negative impacts on both Tien’s health, and that of his loved ones.

Over the last several months, Human Impact Partners (HIP) collaborated with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee and Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus to conduct research on the health impacts of direct transfers from prisons and jails to ICE. Our research, presented in a new toolkit, reveals that Tien’s story is all too common for immigrants and refugees in California and across the country, and has wide-ranging impacts on public health.

Incarceration has always been harmful to health, resulting in higher rates of chronic disease, infectious disease, and poor mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these negative health impacts more clear. Direct transfers to ICE detention centers add yet another layer of harm to the already-violent US carceral system, further increase the risk of spreading infectious diseases like COVID-19, and keep people behind bars longer, which is correlated with diminished health. …

By Christine Mitchell, Martha Ockenfels-Martinez, Jamie Sarfeh, & Sophia Simon-Ortiz

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Cuts and slow downs at USPS threaten public health

Over the past month, much of the news surrounding service slow downs and impending budget cuts at the United States Postal Service (USPS) has focused on the threats posed to voting in the upcoming November elections. Voter disenfranchisement is a real and urgent concern, as so many will depend on mail-in ballots to safely cast their votes this year amidst the ongoing pandemic. …

By Lili Farhang and Solange Gould

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When HIP’s Board of Directors adopted our new 5-year strategic plan on March 13, we had no idea that we were facing a global pandemic, and a renewed nationwide movement to defend Black Lives and reimagine community safety. We had no idea that life and public discourse would change in innumerable ways. It’s been almost 5 months since that day, and we feel confident (and relieved!) that our new plan 100% holds up in this rapidly changing context. …

By Lili Farhang

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Health Workers in Oakland Protest for Black Lives.

Across the world, communities have come together to demand justice in response to the ongoing police murders of Black people, and the continued structural violence of systemic anti-Black racism. As we mourn George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and the countless others killed by police, it is our responsibility as public health practitioners to name and confront a glaring and urgent truth: policing, incarceration, and structural racism are endemic public health crises.

Racial justice and racial equity are fundamental to our mission at Human Impact Partners (HIP). Human Impact Partners transforms the field of public health to center equity and builds collective power with social justice movements. As we follow the leadership of the Movement for Black Lives, and generations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous movement builders and community organizers, we continue our work toward a transformative vision of health equity and racial justice. …

To look around the United States today is enough to make prophets and angels weep. This is not the land of the free; it is only very unwillingly and sporadically the home of the brave.

— James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro

At HIP, our hearts and bodies feel collective grief and rage for the stolen lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. Our grief and rage only builds upon the never-healed losses of Oscar Grant, Alex Nieto, Sandra Bland, and untold others who have been killed by the police.

What can be said in this moment that has not been said before? Perhaps that our human capacity for endurance — in the face of brutal and ongoing injustice and racism — is not without limits. Indeed, communities are putting their lives and well-being on the line in the face of tear gas, batons, and bullets — and as a global pandemic looms over us all — to say, yet again, that Black Lives Matter. We are inspired and nourished by the displays of humanity and power. …

By Solange Gould

Photo of young man at the end of a trail, looking out into the distance of sky and mountains on a clear day.
Photo of young man at the end of a trail, looking out into the distance of sky and mountains on a clear day.
Solange’s son, Kahlil. Photo by Rowan Gould-Bayba.

My sons and I are spending a lot of time these days with young people from the Sunrise Movement in virtual political education trainings on climate justice. Watching a young person break down the history of how we got to this moment, the Green New Deal, The People’s Bailout, and how to dive into the movement to beat the interrelated crises of racism, capitalism, climate change, and coronavirus makes me well up. I love kids of all ages, but have always particularly loved teenagers. …

By Sukhdip Purewal Boparai

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Baby S. joining Mama during morning emails. Photo credit: Sukhdip Purewal Boparai

All week I’ve seen friends and colleagues post social media content introducing their work-from-home “coworkers” to the world — their kids who partake in fun art projects, but are mostly interrupting video conference calls. I myself have a 5 month old “coworker” — she sleeps on the job quite a bit!

Working from home and social distancing are examples of our collective public health effort to protect each other and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Taking these measures enhances our community’s health and wellbeing — yet this is not an option for many.

Low-wage workers — disproportionately people of color and immigrants — are performing essential work like delivering packages and stocking grocery stores.

My dad is part of this category of essential workers. During his 12 hour long shifts, he is making sugar which is necessary for the production of medicine. Meanwhile I’m lucky to be sitting at home, comfortable in my pajamas, with a cup of coffee and laptop at hand. …

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We write to you as we learn to cope with life during a pandemic — wholly concerned with the well-being of those most vulnerable to this virus and its after effects and trying to find moments of peace in our surreal conditions. We hope you and your loved ones are as well as can be in this incredibly hard and unprecedented moment.

We see and are grateful for the immense efforts by local and state health departments, chronically underfunded for decades, rising to the challenge of containing this outbreak and mitigating its harm. …

By the Health Instead of Punishment Program Team

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Amber Akemi Piatt speaking at a #CloseTheCamps rally in August 2019. Photo by Brooke Anderson Photography.

For decades people who are currently or formerly incarcerated have led the fight to end mass criminalization, incarceration, and state surveillance in the United States. All along, they have been shining a spotlight on the harmful, dehumanizing, and unsanitary conditions of confinement in jails, prisons, and detention centers. At the same time, they have rightly questioned why we as a society continue to use punitive responses to issues that are largely social, political, or economic in nature.

These grassroots efforts have grown into powerful social justice movements and political platforms, including national calls to end money bail and to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). …


Human Impact Partners

Bringing the power of public health to campaigns and movements for a just society

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