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How ‘HELEN’ hopes to connect health equity leaders nationally

HELEN website 1Helen is no longer just a popular girl name derived from Greek roots that Homer made famous as the woman’s whose face launched a thousand ships.

To health equity leaders around the country, HELEN now stands for Health Equity Leadership & Exchange Network – a national online network to advance health equity.  It was recently launched to establish a forum to support leadership development and the exchange of ideas and information among communities of color to advance health equity in laws, policies, and programs.

The website,, was created by the National REACH Coalition in collaboration with Morehouse School of Medicine and the National Collaborative for Health Equity and is supported by the Aetna Foundation.

Why was this website created and why now?

Daniel Dawes, Principal Investigator of the HELEN Project, answered questions about the website in a recent webinar broadcast.

“Health inequity is one of the major civil rights issue of the twenty-first century,” said Dawes.

But the major reason for the creation of this website is due to an urgent need to become aware of the many laws and policies that impact underserved communities.

“Health policy is an evolving area and we have seen the passage of great laws, such as the Mental Health Parity Act, the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act and of course, the Affordable Care Act.”

But Dawes reflected that there’s a disturbing trend in which there is a decline in federal legislative activity once these laws are implemented and it has been difficult to coordinate a cohesive strategy around these issues.

“Little has been done to comprehensively, trans-disciplinary and collaboratively coordinate health equity leadership, exchange timely information and generate and initiate health equity strategies, not only at the federal level, but at the state and local levels.”

The work is not done once these laws are passed, he continued.

Dawes hopes HELEN is a useful resource for everyone living in the United States, including the territorial states and encourages health leaders to become members of this national network.

The key benefits and features of the site are:

  • Online forum for members-only to discuss and exchange ideas for advancing health equity.
  • Interactive Map of the United States and its territories with information on health equity champions, resources and member surveys on key healthy policy issues by state.
  • Online resource library that includes information, tools and analyses of state and federal policies and legislation.

“The launch of this network comes at a very exciting time in our nation’s history as there is growing support for health equity movements among philanthropic organizations, government and many public and private sector actors,” said Dr. Brian Smedley, co-founder of the National Collaborative for Health Equity and Co-Principle Investigator of the HELEN project.

“We hope to seize upon this momentum and help all of us, regardless of where we are working or how we’re working to be able to connect, collaborate and foster greater innovations towards advancing health equity.”


Image credit: Health Equity Leadership & Exchange Network (HELEN)

About Heang Tan

Heang Tan is the project director and editor for HealthJusticeCT. You can find her tweeting about health equity and other random things @heangtan

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