Friday, February 2, 2024

Season 3, Episode 3: Building Resilience Through Community-Driven Decision-Making

In today’s episode, we’re talking with Dr. Deepika Andavarapu about how we can advance health equity by building resilience through community-led decision making in research and evaluation.

Season 3, Episode 3: Building Resilience Through Community-Driven Decision-Making

by Dr. Joyee Washington and Dr. Deepika Andavarapu


Welcome to the Public Health Joy Podcast — the safe space for real and honest conversations about what it takes to transform public health research into life-changing solutions for our communities.

 I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we’re talking with Dr. Deepika Andavarapu about how we can advance health equity by building resilience through community-led decision making in research and evaluation.

 This is the joy ride you’ve been waiting for. Join us as we revolutionize public health through research done … with … for … and BY our communities. Together, let’s create our Public Health Joy!


The sooner we acknowledge that public health issues are linked to urban planning, community building, racism, and epigenetics, the sooner we can solve public health crises across the world!

Today on The Public Health Joy Podcast, we are joined by the founder and CEO of Deep Consultants, Ph.D. survivor, urban planning scholar, and TED Talk alumnus, Dr. Deepika Andavarapu. Dr. Andavarapu is a strategic systems thinker designing long-term solutions in public health with an emphasis on results and measuring impact.

In this episode, you will hear all about our guest’s background, how urban planning and public health go hand-in-hand, the importance of community-driven decision-making, and so much more! We delve into Dr. Andavarapu’s TED Talk and the resilience of communities before discussing why we need to move away from the medical model in the public health system. Dr. Andavarapu even explains why race and racism are a massive public health crisis. Finally, she tells us what brings her joy in her work. To hear all this and even get a bit of insight into the incredible WE Public Health organization, tune in now!

To connect with Guest:

Dr. Deepika Andavarapu on LinkedIn

Dr. Deepika Andavarapu on X

Dr. Deepika Andavarapu on Instagram

Links mentioned in this episode: 

Dr. Deepika Andavarapu TED Talk: Resilience of Slums

Deep Consultants

WE Public Health

Just Mercy

For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit

Key Points

  • Introducing today’s guest, Dr. Deepika Andavarapu, and a bit about WE Public Health. [0:01:03]
  • Dr. Andavarapu explains the connection between urban planning and public health. [0:05:41]
  • The importance of involving the voice of the community when finding sustainable solutions. [0:08:59]
  • What Dr. Andavarapu’s TED Talk was about and the three levels of social capital. [0:18:22]
  • Why we need to move beyond the medical model in the public health system. [0:26:28]
  • The effect that race and generational racism have on public health crises and why that needs to be recognized. [0:30:00]
  • The importance of having a mindset shift in order to make true changes in public health. [0:36:55]
  • Dr. Andavarapu tells us what brings her joy in her work. [0:39:01]

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[0:00:57] JW: Hey, welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast, and today we have Dr. Deepika Andavarapu. Did I get that correct?


[0:01:09] DA: Yes, you got it. Hey, guys. Hi, everyone.


[0:01:13] JW: Yes. So, Dr. Deepika Andavarapu is the founder and CEO of Deep Consultants. She’s an urban planning scholar, community researcher, and evaluator working with government nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations. She is a strategic systems thinker, designing long-term solutions, emphasizing results, and measuring impact.


Deepika and I know each other because we are both consultants with WE Public Health, which is a public health collective, consisting of 35 consultants and we are always growing. We’re across the country and we are talented evaluators, trainers, strategist, thought partners, facilitators, researchers, community advocates, and creatives. I mean, you name it, we got it.


At WE Public Health, we offer a wide range of quality consulting services, such as technical assistance, training, facilitation, project design and management, evaluation, and all the things. But most importantly, we share a common vision for justice and equity. So, we actually partner with our clients to walk hand in hand, bringing people first, compassion-centered, and evidence-based design to amplify public health work. So, you can learn more about WE Public Health at But let’s get into it.


I think Deepika and I, we have so many similarities, and just from our experiences, working as consultants and working with WE Public Health, having that shared vision. I know, Deepika, you are focused in culturally responsive and equitable evaluation strategy. So, we’re going to go in detail about that. But before we do, tell the people who you are, what you do, what you got going on.


[0:03:12] DA: Okay. Thank you so much for having me Joyee. It’s really a great pleasure to again, collaborate with you, along We Public Health. WE has been a game changer. It’s really great to have likeminded people. And when you are doing your own CEO, you’re a solopreneur, it’s nice to have a community to think through, to ask questions, to challenge each other. So, it has been great being part of WE. And again, I think, it allows us to be part of the bigger leagues rather than stuck in a smaller organization. So, we really can be transformative by being part of WE.


So, a little bit about me, as you said, I am an urban planning scholar. I came to us in 2001, which is like 22 years to do my Master’s in Urban Planning. Being a planner for several years, then I did my Ph.D. in regional development planning. It was about a slum in India and the resilience of the slum. So, slums are always had this negative connotation. I, again, used like an asset-based framework to look at the slum and how resilient they are, and they fought, and the social capital that the community had to fight the political and ecological turmoil that they went through. And that is the kind of lens that I bring to the public health space.


Then, we talked about the culturally responsive equitable evaluation. I am part of something called ACE Network, advancing culturally responsive evaluation network. There’s almost 100 evaluators in that group across the country that are seen as experts in using this model. So, I’m really proud to be part of that network, and I kind of bring my community engagement, citizen participation, knowledge, and creativity from my Urban Planning background to the evaluation piece in public health. And it has been truly a game changer, and I’m really appreciating this new wave in evaluation where we are centering public health evaluation in people, rather than what the funders want, and what the grantees want. It’s about how is that program helping achieve what the people want to see.


So, at the end of the day, we want to make programs that are reaching the right people, that are providing the right solutions, that are creating the best-case scenarios. I think we are re-centering the evaluation in the communities that we serve. Yes. Thanks for having me. I’m excited for our conversation.


[0:05:41] JW: Yes, absolutely. And one of the things – you mentioned a lot of things that I definitely want to touch on. But one of the things that she mentioned was urban planning. I think there are so many times in public health, we tend to pigeonhole ourselves, especially when those of us who may not have as much experience, or maybe you’re a student, you’re just starting to get into public health, or maybe you’re an early career professional. And you start thinking, “Wait, urban planning? How is that related to public health?” This is the thing. Number one, we say public health isn’t everything. Right? And it’s true. So, we have to start looking at what is the public health lens or the public health angle, to everything that we do.


So, I even started this year, looking at more career paths that are related to public health that we probably never thought of, or never knew existed. And urban planning was one of those things that I came across that I said, “Oh, yes. That makes sense. That would definitely be public health.” But it also made sense to me, because I’ve been in the field for a little while. I understand the connection. But for someone else who might not understand the connection between urban planning and public health, how would you describe that connection for them?


[0:07:06] DA: Oh, my God. That’s an excellent question, Joyee. Again, it is one of those broader fields, right? They are in a culture that becomes – you have to be an expert to the expert. You have to be super, super specialist. Whereas the challenge lies in looking at a higher 40,000-feet level of the problem, especially the problems that we deal in public health. I think we are in this space where we are looking at something called the social determinants of health or wider conditions framework, where we are seeing the health challenges are actually these huge disparities through race. There are equity issues in public health. And a lot of those public health equity issues are kind of originating from communities. Because there’s urban communities, many of these communities have been very systematically and structurally. We have been taking things away from them over years and years and years.


These have been communities that are marginalized, they have been redlining, gentrifying neighborhoods, communities that don’t have food. These are food deserts, they don’t have affordable housing. So, a lot of the public health issues or challenges are kind of the urban health, urban planning problems. I think that was a great way for me coming from urban planning to public health was great for me, because I had this understanding of what are the challenges or transitions and structural issues, on why these communities are where they are. And now public health, even CDC, I mean, NIH, all of these bigger, larger organizations are realizing that the public health challenges cannot be addressed in a hospital system. You have to work with the communities and improve the vital conditions of the communities so that we can reduce those equities or disparities.


[0:08:59] JW: It’s important to remember that every decision that we make, every decision that our leaders make, that our politicians make, that our communities make, every single decision leads to some type of impact. So, we have to be very careful and mindful about things that we do, about how we engage our community members, and then also how we are working with different people in our communities, like politicians, or leaders, or pastors, or whoever, because every one of those decisions can impact our community in a particular way. You mentioned gentrification. I just had a recent experience where I’m from Jackson, Mississippi, and I currently live in Hattiesburg.


So, in Jackson, I had the opportunity to go home. I was just driving down the street going down an area that I hadn’t been down in a while, but very familiar territory. I started looking around and I said, “When did we get sidewalk? When did that happen?” As I was driving a little bit further, I’m like, “Where all these houses come from?” I was in a totally different process, and then it’s like, “Wait a minute, there’s a hotel here.” I’m like, all our little community places and things that places where we used to go and hang out and resources that we used to have and now they’re gone.


[0:10:29] DA: They’re gone. Yes.


[0:10:29] JW: All of them. They’ve been replaced with all these new developments and –


[0:10:34] DA: You have your coffee shop.


[0:10:36] JW: Exactly. Coffee shops, restaurants, the hotels. The thing about it is that it’s a very fine line that is drawn, and you can tell where the gentrification starts, and where it’s going, and where it’s headed. I’m just like, “What else is coming?” I’m like, my community, the place that I grew up is no longer the same. I’m like, “How is my community being impacted by this?” And on that same trip, in that same area where the sidewalks were, the first thing that caught my attention was the building where the bank was, in that neighborhood, was demolished. And I was like, “They tore down the bank building? Well, where are we going to bank?”


So, keeping in mind that everything has an impact, and that impact can be positive, or negative. And when you start seeing it, I would love for my community to have sidewalks. That’s great. It’s like the identity of the community that I knew has shifted and changed. It’s changed to something that I don’t recognize.


[0:11:40] DA: Right. And who made the decision? Who was involved in that decision? The sidewalks, and the lamps, and the demolishon did not happen randomly, right? There has to be some kind of a – the mayor, or the City Council, or the state, or somebody must have created an incentive zone or provided the incentives for redevelopment, change the zoning codes. Some of those decisions were made at some level. And who was involved in that decision-making? Where was the community’s voice in making those decisions? So, I think that is the problem is many of these decisions are made at a state or a federal or even a city level with little to no input from the community that is going to live with that decision. Who has time to go to a public hearing, meeting that was announced in one random newspaper in the corner? There’s a public hearing about so and so and so on, in a so and so community. You don’t even understand.


By the time you understand and realize the changes, it’s too late. Because, “Oh, we held the public hearing. That’s when you should have spoken.” Yes, as you said, who’s involved in that decision making and where’s the community’s voice? I think that is the central frustration a lot of the times, is many of those voices are not represented in those decision-making spaces. That is something that I deeply care about. And that is one of the pieces of the culturally responsive equitable evaluation tool, that when I work with the clients, or funders, I’m taking my time to say, “Hey, what is the purpose of this evaluation? Are you evaluating it to give it back to the funders? Or are you evaluating to make sure that the program is reaching the people that is supposed to reach?” And that is, how are we getting those voices heard? And what are the tools that we can use to make sure that those voices are heard?


[0:13:44] JW: Then also, focusing on that assets-based mindset or a strength-based approach. Even when we’re talking about reaching the right people, we have to think who are the right people? Who’s defining what is right? You’re talking to politicians and leaders, their version of right is going to be different than our version of right when we’re working in the community. So, when we’re evaluating whether it’s policies, or practices, or programs, we want to make sure that when we’re talking about having and reaching the right people and engaging the right people in the evaluation strategies is making sure that the people who are going to be directly impacted by this decision. The people are going to directly be impacted by whether that’s the benefits of what’s about to happen, or if it’s something that’s going to be harmful. We want to make sure that those people are going to be able to have their voices heard, because in actuality, they are the experts.


[0:14:54] DA: Right. If you’re trying to reduce like, as you probably know, the Black infant mortality in this country is ludicrous. It’s beyond horrible. It is equivalent to some of – it is even probably worse than some of the African countries. At the same time, there’s like billions of dollars spent on reducing it. But then, the Black moms are not part of that conversation. We should be reaching out to the Black moms that are dealing with the weatherization of their body, that are dealing with these microaggressions in their day-to-day life, that are dealing with the challenges. They are the ones that know the problem inside out. Are those voices part of those conversations? How do we incorporate those voices?


I think at the end of the day, we can make big claims, but we do not know the lived experience of those people. And we have to make space and create that whole space for those voices.


[0:15:51] JW: And recognizing that when we hold space for those voices, is not a temporary thing.


[0:15:58] DA: No.


[0:15:58] JW: It’s not just for the sake of whatever project you’re doing, or for the sake of the policy you’re trying to pass. This is what we need to do for sustainability. Sustainable solutions. We have to consistently have conversations that drive impact, and then also engage those community members or the population, whoever’s our ideal population or audience, having them directly engaged in the work at all times. Because there are a lot of times where people, especially in evaluation or research, that people do the project, and they’re like, “Oh, we’re done. That’s it.”


[0:16:40] DA: Yes, we will interview the program, like we will interview the people who have done it. We will collect data and, “Oh, so many people came. They did this.  We did this performance measures.” But, so what? So what, you did that? How did that change the behavior or attitudes? Or impact the health outcomes of that population that you’re trying to reach? Unless your program is having an impact on that participant, that is worthless. It doesn’t matter how many events you conducted, how many people that you pulled, how much free stuff you gave away. But at the end of the day, if the attitudes, or knowledge, or the behavior, or health outcomes of that population group have changed, your work is meaningless.


[0:17:24] JW: I think it’s also important to recognize that the relationship-building process. The relationship-building process, and before we go into the relationship-building process, I want to mention, you had a TED talk. And we will drop the YouTube link to the TED Talk in our show notes. And that TED talk was focused on the resilience of slums in India. And in your TED talk, you talked about the importance of relationship building and maintaining resilience and community identity through knowledge and support.


There’s this one quote that I have, that I want to read out from your talk. And it was just kind of a mic-drop moment for me. Maybe prior to – before I read the quote, you can share a little bit about what that TED talk was about.


[0:18:22] DA: Yes, yes. It was my doctoral dissertation project. I was in India. It’s the city that I grew up in, Vishakhapatnam in India. Essentially, it’s a fisherman village, in the middle of the city, and I think the city kind of grew around it. The village, as always, that community has retained its essential nature as a fishing village even today. But as the city grew, and people wanted to kind of encroach on that community, it had really these interesting moments there, an organization came in, and gave them the tools to fight for their rights. The right to live, the right to fish. So, just in a period of 10 years, this small slum and the youth association filed lumpsum 14 legal cases against the city, and also the state, and other organizations that were trying to take away their right to fish or the right to the land.


It was very powerful because one of the two ways I talk about it is social capital. There are three levels of social capital. One, is a bonding among the community, like that relationship, that connection, that sense of belonging that you have, where it’s just like, this is not the place I grew up in. It was changed. So, that sense of my community, that sense of belonging at the ground level. Then, there is also bridging, which is community to community. It’s like a connection among the communities that strengthens them. But then, there is something called the linking capital. Those that are in power, provide those resources to these communities, and through those resources, the communities can fight for their rights.


In this particular case, there was this ActionAid, which was a nonprofit, international NGO that came in and gave them these tools that they use to fight. So, as powerful as social capital is, it is useless if you don’t have that linking capital. 


[0:20:17] JW: As I was watching and listening, I thought that it was a beautiful example of sometimes what we may see as outsiders, compared to the lived experience of that community, right? And how that community perceives their identity, and the world around them, is very different than how we may perceive that community as outsiders, has evolved little bit about gentrification, and making sure that there’s policy to support the rights of that community. When you have people who are coming in, trying to change what they feel to this problem, that does a lot of harm. Because you have no idea. You have no – you have not asked not one question to that community about how this decision might impact them. You made an assumption that this is the best course of action, without asking the people who is going to directly affect or impact.


But I want to also recognize your quote that I have, and what you said is, “Resilient is a long and laborious process. The residents collaborated with government and non-government organizations to build their community from the ground up, to build their social and physical infrastructure. Urban poor are not vulnerable victims, can be formidable warriors. They fight for their human rights, for their community rights, and for their cultural rights. All they need is knowledge and support. All they need is those essential linkages that can provide them with knowledge and support.” And for me, I’m just like, “What else do we need to hear?”


[0:22:17] DA: It is true in India. It is true in the US. I bet it is true in all those communities that are called blighted, or poor, or they’re just like, they’re struggling or they’re not. They’re really not. They are rich. They’re cultural. They’re very resilient. They make the dollar go ways beyond what you can imagine. I think we forget, I mean, as you said, we don’t have that insider view of the community. The kids in those communities, there is a village that’s raising those children. It’s not that family, or the mom, or the dad. It’s the whole village that’s taking care of it. Those are the villages that we are losing, right? And this transition in this fight, to make everything a cookie cutter, or a perfectionist kind of thing. You’re losing the essence of those communities, unfortunately.


There is this new framework. We talk about social determinants of health in public health. But there is this new framework that the CDC is adopting. It’s called the vital conditions and urgent services. So, there’s two pieces of the coin. When you go into a community, you say, “Oh, this community has homelessness. This community has substance abuse. This community has blah, blah, blah.” And we are always saying, “Here’s a service, here’s a service, here’s the service.” But they’re not solving the problem. Everything is like a band-aid. But how about we think about, how can we improve the properties in the community? How can you build more affordable quality green housing in the community, that will resolve a stress on the public health system? Like how about you build affordable clinics that take Medicaid in that community, and provide services? How about you build reliable transportation in that community that reduces the burden on these people? You’re talking about, “Oh, they’re not eating well, they’re not eating healthy.” How about you build a grocery store?


So, we’re talking about these individual decisions that are poor, but why are those individuals making those decisions? It’s because those communities do not have the same resources that other communities have. Rather than question them, challenge them, and criticize the individual decisions, build those tools, build those infrastructures in those communities, and provide them the resources.


[0:24:50] JW: And understand why those community members feel the way they do. Because I know for me, in my hometown, you could go anywhere in Jackson and see, maybe imagine, or see that it’s a dilapidated building. I see that as history. Someone else might see that, “Oh, that’s worn down or torn down, homes and houses and those types of things”, where I see the potential of what could be there. And knowing that, “Oh, that used to be where Mr. Smith used to live. And he was a prominent banker in the community, and he would provide all the community members with information on how to build skills. This is the street that had all the Black-owned businesses on it.”


When you start thinking about it, like we talked about that strengths-based mindset, things start changing. When you start prioritizing the community’s experiences over anything else, your decision-making approach will be different. It will be different. So, we have to start thinking, how do we approach – I was talking about evaluation, that culturally responsive and equitable evaluation strategies. How do we start implementing that more, so that we can advance toward those community-driven solutions? That’s often that piece that we miss. It needs to be community, not just any type of solution, because the solution that you have might not be the solution that the community wants. So, we want to make sure that we have community-driven solutions.


[0:26:28] DA: Yes. I think we have to move beyond the medical model. In the public health system, we are always like, there is this medical model where it is about, “Oh, this is the hospital system. They are the lords and masters. They know the best.” And then they will give you prescriptions, or diet, or whatever, that individuals have to work in the community with the challenges, with the resources, and with the limited resources that they have. And it’s always the individual’s decision-making that is criticized.


Even you and I, if we go and live in those communities with those resources, we will have the same challenges, same health issues. All of us will have – I was talking to a cardiovascular doctor the other day, and she is thinking about a programming. And she said, I’ve always been healthy my whole life. But then, when I was doing my residency, I was living in this neighborhood, because it was close to, and that’s the first time I gained weight. Because the closest – there’s no close grocery store. Everything that was available was fast food, which was not healthy for me. And given my hours, that was all I had access to. Even somebody in the medical field that has been healthy their whole life, you put them in that community, they are going to have the same health issues. It’s not the individual vision. 


So, the medical model is always kind of putting the onus on the person or the individual for not walking enough, not eating healthy, blah, blah, blah. But then, they live in the society or a community with limited resources and huge challenges. And you forget that it’s also the society’s responsibility to provide the right resources to the community in a culturally responsive way. It’s like, what is the – is it a Hispanic community? Is it an Indian community? Is it an African-American community? And what kind of groceries? What kind of food? What kind of cultural practices does this community have a need?


But I think, we are doing the public health practices, and another one of my clients is in Philadelphia, and it’s a big hospital system, and they are all about health education. We are promoting health education, and then we are like, but who will come to the hospital system, right? You provide like a one-hour training, and that person has to leave their kids, travel, drive, park, come, and then go back and cook dinner, take care of the kids. Versus if you partner with one of the faith-based organizations in the community or the Rec Center, they will provide childcare services for the kids. They will provide dinner for the family after the event. They are the trusted community members in the community. Your health education in your ivory tower is worthless. But you can take that knowledge and know-how and provide that to the community-based organization that has the trust of the community, that understands the culture of the community. That is where it will have a bigger impact.


[0:29:30] JW: It’s amazing how many people are healthy, simply because of their privilege. Because of their privilege, they are. And we have to start recognizing, like you said, it’s the bigger systems issue, it’s not. It’s based on this individual behavior. And if we could get more people to recognize that you are healthy because of your privilege, we just aren’t making some different decisions about some things.


[0:30:00] DA: Oh, my god. I mean, the opioid crisis, right? There is so many, 110,000 documentaries about opioid crisis and it is all centered on one thing. It is not the individual station. It is because the systems, this pharmacy, blah, blah, blah, has created this culture, and this is how it affected everybody. Why is that recognition that your system failed? Because it affected both White and Black communities. Now, there is like this understanding, and this need to prove that it’s a systems issue in the opioid crisis.


COVID, we were jumping on that bandwagon because it was affecting everybody. We got it under control. We got the vaccines under control because it was affecting everybody. So, we have the resources. We have the system. We can do it. We can make that happen. It’s just that intentionality that these communities need that extra support, and we can we can make that happen. We did it with COVID. They did it with – we did it with opioids. We’re doing it with opioids. It’s not they’re gone, but there’s this recognition that those are systems change issues. And if we can deal at that policy level, we have a bigger, easier time getting the solutions.


[0:31:16] JW: And then making sure that equity is at the center of those policies and decision making, and whatever it is that’s coming after that, or during the process, we need to make sure that we have a true focus on equity. Because it makes a world of difference in how we approach our research and evaluation strategies, and decision making, as a result of those things and the solutions that we are able to arrive to and implement. Because that’s the key. We have to be able to implement the solutions if we want to see a change.


[0:31:54] DA: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think every single thing, and this is infant mortality and maternal mortality, for example. There’s huge gaps between the White infant mortality and Black infant mortality. White teenage moms with zero high school education have better health outcomes than Black moms with professional jobs and much more income. It’s not education. It’s not your age. It’s not your funding. It’s not your money. It’s just raised. Race is the only one single determinant that decides your maternal morbidity and mortality, or your kid’s mortality. Why? Because the stress that the communities are placing on Black moms is weatherizing their bodies that they are unable to carry their kids full-term. You cannot no longer say that race is not an issue. It is absolutely a significant singular issue that’s affecting these health equity issues.


[0:32:55] JW: And more importantly, we have to recognize the racism. Because that has contributed to our stress and the historical trauma and the generational trauma that we hold in our bodies. I’m like, I don’t know if they have the technology yet. But I wish somebody looking B&A and tell me what are the very specific events that in general, we know that our people were enslaved, we know that they had we medical mistrust, [inaudible 0:33:30] mistrust, a long way trauma related to research, all those things. But I want to know, specifically in my bloodline, what are the things that have contributed to where I am today? Because I owe a part of me and who I am. I know that my ancestors and my community, of course, faced racism and injustice, and I’m holding on to that. Did I face the same racism and injustice that they faced? No, I did not.


But that stress and that trauma continues to go down our generational line. When we’re talking about systems structure, we have to consider the historical piece of it, as well, and how that impacts the communities that we have present day. A lot of people didn’t come to that realization until 2020. This is a realization for a lot of folks when we started saying racism is a public health crisis.


[0:34:35] DA: The thing is, epigenetics is a reality, right? A daughter that is born, a newborn female that is born is born with all the eggs that she will ever have. So, she’s carrying the trauma of her mother and her grandmother, like that is science. There’s nothing social about it. There’s not emotional about it. That is epigenetics. The trauma is passed on from generation to generation. At the end of the day, racism is not an individual, right? It is the structures and the systems that have created these inequities. This did not happen just because people were lazy.


After the Second World War, and this is one of the things that I really care about deeply is, after the Second World War, the veterans that returned, they had access. And a lot of this wealth that is built today is a result of that policy where the veterans had the GI Bill, right? They could go to college for free, or they could buy new houses at a lowest mortgage rate. But only 2% of African-American veterans were eligible for those policies. They were good enough to go and fight and sacrifice their lives, but they were not good enough to get the privileges of veterans, and then they had to fight for the right. And when they did fight, and when they had access to the houses.


They put all the African Americans in one single suburb. The banks dropped the value of those mortgages because they were more African Americans in that community. When you say slavery happened 300 years ago, but these policies and practices and protocols kept going on years and years and years. Even to this day, like they think in Just Mercy, that was a book that Bryan Stevenson wrote, he was talking about the judicial system in the 2010. So, these are practices that are happening even today that are structurally criminalizing being planned. Yes, it’s absolutely, racism is a huge public health crisis. We created those systems, and we have to change those systems, and nothing is going to change until those systems change happen.


[0:36:55] JW: Yes. As we start wrapping up and closing, I think one of the biggest things, when it comes to that systems change is, and we’ve been talking about this whole time, it’s changing our mindset about – it seems a lot of times that systems and relationships are galaxies apart. No one is thinking how systems and relationships come together. But we have to start thinking about looking at the chain, looking at the line, how these different things are connected, and how do we start bringing that relationship building through evaluation, that culturally responsive, and equitable evaluation through our research practices, that gives us the data to inform what needs to be done that helps us to develop these policies, and these practices and these programs. It’s all connected. And we can’t look at these as just separate entities that don’t impact one another.


We have to start thinking about what would it look like if we could design a system that could positively impact our relationships, and vice versa. Those positive relationships impact our decisions about what we decide to do in changing our systems. So, thinking about what does all that look like? And we could be able to design a system that trickles down through the policies, the practices, the programs, and is able to create community-driven solutions that bring joy to those communities, that have a positive impact on those communities. So, sometimes we’re so distant, as looking at all those different pieces and understanding how do we use research and evaluation, not only positively impact our communities, but doing it in a way that’s going to change our systems. So, this is a long-term solution.


As we get ready to close out, I’ve got one more question for you. That question is what brings you joy in your work?


[0:39:01] DA: I think just these conversations and this relationship building. I think, as you said, we all want to be part of something big. We all want to make an impact. And I feel like being part of these conversations, being part of the collaborative like the WE, being part of the solution, being part – we always say the system is broken, right? But the system is truly not broken. It is doing exactly what it was designed to do, which is creating inequitable outcomes. We have to dismantle the system one small thing at a time, and it gives me immense joy that I’m part of that recreating a new system that is going to produce more equitable outcomes. I am extremely excited to be part of the team with you and the WE collaborative, and many of my partners in public health space who are truly in this are changing their system and we are creating equitable outcomes for everybody. So, it gives me joy and pleasure that there are people in this world that want to make it a better place for their families, and friends, and their children. So, thank you for being a partner with me, and talking with me, and letting me share my story.


[0:40:20] JW: Well, thank you so much for joining the conversation, and sharing your story, and your perspective as well. I can talk about this stuff all day. But if people want to connect with you, if they want to find you, where can they connect with you more or find you online or stay in touch?


[0:40:41] DA: Yes. I’m very active on LinkedIn. We also have my website, So, you can drop a note in there and we can connect. If you want to find me on LinkedIn, or send me a message, that would be awesome. But yes, and also, the WE collaborative is a great space. So, reach out to Joyee or Jennifer McKeever to find a big, awesome kick-ass group of women.


[0:41:09] JW: Oh, thank you so much. And this wraps up another episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast.



[0:41:17] JW: I am so grateful for this time we got to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit This is where research meets relationship. I’ll see you next time on The Public Health Joy Podcast.



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