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Ignite More: Healthcare Equity - Q&A with Andrea Jacobo

At a time when human rights are being reconsidered by the U.S. Supreme Court, and access to affordable healthcare is a luxury, health equity is struggling more than ever. This quarter, Ignite More is exploring how healthcare equity is advocated for, created, implemented, and communicated across various organizations. Or in some cases, how it could be.

Andrea Jacobo, MPH, DrPH(c)

Urban Studies Visiting Instructor & Public Health Director at Rhodes College 

Andrea Jacobo, MPH, DrPH
Andrea Jacobo, MPH, Dr(PH(c)

Along with teaching, Ms. Jacobo is also the Public Health Director for Health in All Spaces, a multi-organizational initiative focused on vaccine equity within the Greater Memphis area. She is a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) candidate at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Her areas of focus intersect community-based participatory action research, creative analytical practices, Black geographies, and racial health equity.

3i: How do you define health equity?

AJ: Health equity is having a socio-structural environment that facilitates fair and just access to resources, opportunities, and care needed for every person to have a high quality of life. 

How does health inequity affect you personally and professionally?

Being a first-generation Dominican-American, I have realized that my family and community have experienced adverse circumstances because we had limited access to fresh food, quality healthcare, and education. I am here today because of the community social and wellness programs that helped my family and me, so personally, I see the value of creating health equity initiatives that support the whole person. Growing up in a low-income, single-parent home, I pursued my education as a ticket out of poverty and to later help create the infrastructure for others to thrive in their respective way. Therefore, my professional commitment to health equity is deeply personal too. I have been facilitating conversations between community-based organizations, stakeholders, and residents on how we can collectively work together to address the health equity needs of the greater Memphis community. As a visiting assistant professor within the Rhodes College Urban Studies-Health Equity Program, I teach future health and urban planning professionals to shift their perspective on how we approach to care, wellness and health. In my other role as a Public Health Director of the Health in All Spaces, I work with community health outreach specialists and ambassadors to increase accessibility to health resources, programs, and COVID-related vaccinations. 

How does your organization strive for health equity?

Within the Rhodes College Urban Studies- Health Equity Program, we’re focused on teaching the future about health equity theory and practice while engaging critically with community-based organizations to co-create initiatives that are health equity/ justice oriented. We recognize that racism is a public health emergency.  We strive to implement health equity frameworks to help us address the historical and social forms of oppression that have led to the health inequities we see today.

How does health equity pertain to your role? 

It has to do with everything that I do in both my roles. From facilitating students learning journey to see through social justice and health equity lens to making community health decisions based on the specific needs of the community. 

What does health equity look like in an ideal world?

Health equity looks like every child born into a world with all the resources they need to be healthy, vibrant, and thriving, and while in the same thread of life, having a world that supports every person who finds themselves at the end of their life to have access care, resources, and support to transition. From cradle to grave, health equity in an ideal world assures the person can live healthily, happily, and purposefully. 

How can communities contribute to a more equitable future in healthcare?

Communities have the answer to the inequities within the healthcare system. We need to work together to make a more equitable future in healthcare. Communities can contribute their lived experiences and knowledge to create systems that are community-centered. 

How do you communicate about health equity to your staff and community?

I integrate a health equity lens to the issues that are closest to the communities I serve. People know what the struggle is with achieving health equity, and sometimes, they don’t know that they can be a part of the solution. I highlight the power of community organizing and collective power/voice in achieving that in the future.

What kinds of programs have you created?

Understanding the influence community leaders have on individual health decisions, we created a Community Health Ambassador program for community leaders, business owners, faith-based leaders, and youth within socially vulnerable neighborhoods. The CHAs provide additional support to the health programs and resources created by community-based organizations. 

In my previous capacity, I was a part of various efforts:

I served as the Community Health Extension Agent at the University of Tennessee Extension Service, I had two roles that intersect individual health behaviors and community initiatives that address major health issues. I partnered with the local health department and co-led a coalition focused on health equity through an interdisciplinary collaborative approach. Through these partnerships,  I co-led a food resiliency initiative with the Shelby County Schools’ Farm to School Program and Big Green, a local non-profit dedicated to building school learning gardens. Through this effort, They were recipients of the 2019 Sprouts Foundation Grant for $5,000 to continue building the capacity of the Youth Food Resiliency Network.

What resources do you use? Offer?

My colleagues and I are an immediate resource in how we are operationalizing health equity in Memphis. Please feel free to connect with me via email, LinkedIn or Twitter @_andreajacobo. 

American Public Health Association 




What results have you seen? Specific initiatives/examples?

We are strengthening the communities capacity to advocate and receive quality access to care and resources. You are starting to see neighborhood residents more involved in how they want health and wellness to be integrated into schools, parks, community programs, and other public goods. 

What do you recommend for other companies and communities to address healthcare inequities in America?

Get into the community and listen to the people!  The way out of health inequities is to center the people who have been the most marginalized and partner with them. Using a community-centered approach helps build long-term, sustainable health equity efforts needed to close the gap in health we see today. 

Thanks again to Andrea Jacobo for her time and insight!

Keep an eye out for more Ignite More: Health Equity Q&As throughout the month of September.  

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