Centering Equity and Racial Justice in Family Planning Services in Massachusetts
Our new program standards spotlight racial equity and provide aspirational goals, but we need to move from the abstract to the practical—especially around equity and racial justice.Marcos Palmarin, MA DPH SRPH Capacity Building Coordinator
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, a Title X grantee, supports over 80 family planning sites including community health centers, hospitals, and community-based service organizations through its Sexual and Reproductive Health Program (MA DPH SRHP). The MA DPH SRHP goal is “promoting healthy relationships and sexuality, preventing unintended pregnancies and STDs, and reducing infant mortality and morbidity in Massachusetts.” They pursue it by improving access to high-quality education, outreach, and clinical services through a statewide provider network and related special projects.
Health equity and racial justice are central and at the core of everything the MA DPH SRHP does (see image to the right). For instance, the first section of the DPH SRHP Core Values and Program Standards, released in 2022, states that all aspects of programming, activities, and service delivery must be:
- Focused on the elimination of health inequities and promotion of health equity.
- Cognizant that individual health occurs in the context of individual, interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy-related factors, and that the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age and disability contribute further to health inequities.
- Evidence-based and medically accurate, client-centered, trauma-informed, culturally and developmentally appropriate.
- Centered on the needs of those with the greatest barriers to access.
The MA DPH SRHP recognizes that health occurs in the context of individual, interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy-related factors. Importantly, the program is committed to achieving health equity by promoting racial justice and addressing institutional and structural racism. As Marcos Palmarin, MA DPH SRPH Capacity Building Coordinator, explains, “Our new program standards spotlight racial equity and provide aspirational goals, but we need to move from the abstract to the practical—especially around equity and racial justice.” They are now focused on supporting partnerships and innovation, including the development of a formal partnership with the community health center network of MA, in order to meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of racially diverse populations by providing services in their communities.
Family planning agencies interested in resources for training on advancing equity and racial justice can check out these RHNTC resources: the Leadership for a Diverse and Inclusive Family Planning Organization eLearning, the Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health Equity in Family Planning Podcast Series, the Cultural Competency in Family Planning Care eLearning, and the Engaging Diverse Community Partners Job Aid.