Emmett Schelling and John Oeffinger opening the NNPHI TransFORWARD breakout session

National Network of Public Health Institutes’ Annual Conference Breakout Session

Understanding the Social, Economic, and Historical Inequalities for an Effective COVID-19 Response is a long title, but it did the trick. Attendees packed the room for our breakout session at the National Network of Public Health Institutes’ Annual Conference. Emmett Schelling and John Oeffinger shared a presentation developed with Brett Cooper about our current PCORI COVID-19 Engagement project. The audience asked several good questions and learned practical information for public health professionals.

The session was the first transgender and gender diverse breakout session at any NNPHI Annual Conference. Overall, conference attendance was maxed out with people attending from the 42 public health institutes and 10 public health training centers.

Understanding the Social, Economic, and Historical Inequalities for an Effective COVID-19 Response presentation

We modified our presentation to begin with several quotes from the opening plenary session. Abigail Echo-Hawk, MA (Pawnee) director, Urban Indian Health Institute and executive vice president, Seattle Indian Health Board, provided direct and clear statements challenging public health professionals in decolonizing data for indigenous people. Her comments included: “I don’t need your evidence-based practice without my evidence. To reach equity we have to walk through truth,” attributed to Donald Warren, MD (Oglala).

She also stated: “Stop telling us how to measure undoing racism. Working toward equity is uncomfortable and not voluntary. What if measures of equity are actually defined by the people affected. Lack of data is eliminating us in the data. True equity is a redistribution of power.”

These comments should give us all some thoughts to reflect on.

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John Oeffinger is Director, eLearning and Training for Texas Health Institute and Co-Director of TransFORWARD: Texas Transgender Health, a collaboration between Texas Health Institute and Equality Texas Foundation. He has 39 years’ experience in project management, distance education and eLearning in for-profit, association, and non-profit organizations. John currently leads or co-directs four eLearning or transgender health projects for THI developing collaborative partnerships with national, state, and community based partners. He has been project lead for thirty-three online courses including twenty-five that are currently online. John earned his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Texas A&M University in 1976 and was named to Marquis Who’s Who in America in 1996. His primary research interests are in culturally competent transgender health, 3D immersive learning, web and mobile applications in health, and developing organizational knowledge.

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