Advancing Health Equity in Spartanburg
The Mary Black Foundation believes that health and wellness are basic human rights.
In 2018, the Foundation adopted a health equity statement:
Health equity exists when all people have access to opportunities to thrive, both physically and mentally, and no one is limited in achieving health and wellness because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age, income, or zip code.
However, we quickly realized that having a statement was not sufficient enough. We needed a framework to guide our work. In 2020, the Foundation’s Program Directors, Keisha Gray and Natalia Valenzuela Swanson sat down to research and create a framework that would guide us in achieving our mission to invest in people and communities for improved health, wellness, and success in Spartanburg County.
To advance health equity, Spartanburg will need to ensure it has: (1) high quality education & employment, (2) safe & supportive neighborhoods, and (3) accessible, affordable, & culturally relevant health care.
Framework in Action
While no one organization can achieve health equity alone, the Mary Black Foundation uses its resources- grants and impact investments, advocacy, capacity building, technical assistance, convening, and strategic alliances- to advance health equity. Below are examples of how the Mary Black Foundation is working to achieve health equity.
Achieving Health Equity in Our Community
In each of the three buckets of Mary Black Foundation’s Health Equity Framework, there are different sub-categories. These sub-categories are more specific things that a community needs to have to ensure all people can achieve health and wellness.
In the Safe & Supportive Neighborhoods bucket, a sub-category is Complete Streets. Complete streets are accessible to everyone, regardless of age or ability, and include many forms of transportation (walking, biking, wheelchair, stroller, public transit) not just cars and trucks. These streets foster family-friendly neighborhoods where children and adults can walk, bike or stroll to school, parks, restaurants, libraries, and other educational and entertainment venues safely.
Moreover, complete streets promote economic development through connectivity and equitable access to local businesses, jobs, schools, services, public transportation, food choices, and other opportunities. The ability to walk, bike, and use transit safely lessens the need for a costly vehicle, promotes active living and improves health outcomes in our community. When transportation is less of a barrier, people engage with their communities through work and play.
Framework in Action
As a community, Spartanburg is making efforts both to welcome those who have moved to our area recently and to ensure that residents who have called Spartanburg home benefit from the growth as well. A key component in meeting these objectives is supporting the concept of livability for all.
Livability is measured by factors that provide quality of life, such as affordable access to food, housing, transportation, health care, education, and a safe and stable environment. We are challenged in Spartanburg County with safety on our roads. The concept of complete streets should be a priority for all residents and decision-makers in Spartanburg.
PAL: Play. Advocate. Live Well. is spearheading trail development in Spartanburg County’s urban area in collaboration with Spartanburg County Parks, the City of Spartanburg, and many community partners. This trail network, The Daniel Morgan Trail System or The Dan, is Spartanburg’s 50-mile urban trail system consisting of existing and proposed trails.
It is one of the region’s most transformative projects, linking residents across our community to jobs, educational opportunities, transit, and recreation. In fact, The Dan is the physical link connecting our tourism, environment, and health, as well as our economic, and community development projects.
To dream, strategize, and implement an initiative this enormous requires thinking big, integrating systems, engaging the community, and developing infrastructure.
The vision of these complete streets will allow residents to safely access a trail within walking distance from their homes, explore the natural resources and historic areas, or visit downtown shops and restaurants.
The goal of The Dan, connecting people of all ages, demographics, and abilities and to bringing active living opportunities to all residents of Spartanburg County, is community-building at its finest.
Visit Mary Black Foundation’s website to learn more about our Health Equity Framework and examples of ways the Foundation has used grant funding and impact investments to further its mission.