Here We Are.
2021 has met us at the trailhead and with the new year under foot, we find ourselves both revisiting our roots and eager for new growth. Our vision – for all people to be healthy and live in a healthy environment – remains our guiding compass, though the past year has shown us that the route towards health equity must be more inclusive, empathic and direct.
In December, we reflected on the lessons we learned amidst an unpredictable, tumultuous year for public health and our nation. If we are to create a place for all people to be healthy and live in a healthy environment, then we cannot return to and uphold systems and practices that blatantly disregard Black, Brown and indigenous lives. We cannot meet the needs of communities exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic with an underfunded and overworked public health workforce, particularly as the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact marginalized and indigenous communities. There is no “business as usual” to go back to, and the “new normal” must be holistically different from that of the past.
For a field rooted in prevention, 2020 reconnected public health with our capacity for innovation. Despite a year marred with uncertainty, 2020 proved to be the biggest year in Trailhead’s history with nearly $17 million in funding passing through our doors. Funding went to many notable emergency response efforts across Colorado, including farmers, food systems workers and communities that have faced historic and persistent barriers to food access.
As the call for an expanded community-based public health workforce remains a critical need for communities across the state, we’re also thinking about how we can care for our existing workforce and address the widespread burnout public health has experienced over the past year. While our natural tendency is to keep our foot on the gas, especially in times of urgency, we’re also learning it’s important to reflect on the work we’ve impacted if we hope to stay energized.
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Taking a Bird’s-Eye View of 2020
Governor Polis issues “stay-at-home” order
Trailhead begins managing the COVID-19 Emergency Hunger Relief Fund (the Fund) in response to urgent food access and nutritional needs that emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the Fund has issued over 400 grants, resulting in approximately $4.3 M distributed into local communities.
Trailhead convenes the Colorado Public Health Workforce Collaborative
Trailhead brings together a partnership of non-profit advocates, governmental agencies, hospitals, and higher education organizations to form the Colorado Public Health Workforce Collaborative (The Collaborative).
The Collaborative continues to provide structure and support for local public health agencies across the state, working to ensure coordination and collaboration across partners who are working on containment initiatives related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colorado passes $1.5M to support rural local public health agencies
Trailhead also worked with partners across the Collaborative and KC Becker, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, to push forward and pass a bill in the state legislature to get an additional $1.5 million for rural local public health agencies to support COVID-19 response efforts.
Racism is declared a public health crisis
The City of Denver joins cities across the country in declaring racism a public health crisis in June, followed by the State of Colorado who joins the declaration in July.
Respond & Rebuild Fund launches to support Colorado farmers
The Colorado Farm & Food Systems Respond & Rebuild Fund (Respond & Rebuild Fund) is created to support Colorado agriculture producers through COVID-19.
Through partnership, the Colorado Farm & Food Systems Response Team and Trailhead have administered nearly $2 million in funds, helping more than 250 farmers and families receive aid to keep their businesses thriving.
The Collaborative spearheads new public health career pathways
In partnership with Colorado Workforce Development Council, Trailhead and the Collaborative convened industry, education and academic partners to develop three career pathways within the public health field, connecting individuals to work, education, support services exploration and action planning.
The pathways are currently nearing their formal launch on My Colorado Journey, a free, statewide online platform that emphasizes competency-based career pathways that meet the needs of the labor market.
Project Protect Promotora Networks launches to support food systems workers
Project Protect Promotora Network launches to create a regional Promotora model to train and provide resources for a group of promotoras across the state who are knowledgeable in legal, health and food-based issues that confront food systems workers in response to COVID-19.
Trailhead supports PPPN by administering funding to keep the network funded. From August through December of 2020, the network successfully activated 72 community leaders, collectively undergoing about 1,000 hours of training in three months. The impactful work of Project Protect Promotora Network is continuing in 2021 and an incredible end of year summary of PPPN’s work can be found here.
$12M CO-HELPS grant funds Public Health Pre-Apprenticeship Program
Colorado Public Health Workforce Collaborative launches the Public Health Pre-Apprenticeship Program, created to retain and advance case investigators, contact tracers and resource coordinators through the field of public health now and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This free, three-step program is actively accepting participants and will continue throughout 2021 for individuals interested in exploring careers in health care and public health.
Youth Sexual Heath program invited to apply for funding dedicated to anti-oppressive practices
The Youth Sexual Health Program was invited to apply for funding from the Colorado Collaborative for Reproductive Health Equity to implement anti-oppressive practices into the multiple initiatives and projects within the program. Just last month, Trailhead was awarded $150,000 in January to complete their work over the course of the next two years.
Regional Health Connector project addresses increasing needs of homeless and at-risk communities
Colorado’s Office of Behavioral Health launches Regional Health Connector project in two regions to address increasing needs of homeless & at-risk communities due to COVID-19. Regional Health Connectors seek to increase services to Colorado’s homeless and at-risk populations in response to COVID-19 through this project
Trailhead closes biggest funding year in organization’s history
Trailhead passes nearly $17 million through its doors to assist numerous emergency response efforts, scale and sustain Colorado’s public health workforce and COVID-19 containment initiatives, and support communities across the state experiencing increased food insecurity.
On the Horizon
The trail ahead is one informed by the lessons we gained in 2020.
As we proceed squarely into 2021, we are grounded in our commitment to being a regenerative organization* – one in which we work with our partners to actively design and evolve structures that create an environment to foster equity in decision-making, power and resources.
To hold ourselves accountable to this work, each member of our team is committed to engaging in a tri-annual review process that reflects on how our policies, practices, programs and procedures burden or benefit communities of color. We are asking ourselves to reflect upon who’s at the table and which voices are missing in the rooms where decisions are being made. We will revisit and explore strategies for reducing negative impacts and decreasing disparities among marginalized groups in our work. We will listen more and strengthen our ability to provide administrative, collaborative and programmatic supports. As a result, we aim to be a truly regenerative organization – one that is actively reversing historic societal inequities and regenerating people and communities.
This is a trail we are inspired to be on, vow to maintain and are eager to share openly with our community both in practice and in communicating our progress. It’s the only viable path if the view we seek is one where all people have the opportunity to be healthy and live in a healthy environment. And while the work towards health equity will stretch far beyond the bounds of 2021, and the challenges posed by COVID-19 persist in disproportionate measure, we’re incredibly grateful to be joined by innovative and devoted partners at this trailhead as we collectively envision a new future for public health.
*Credit to nRhythm for this definition and their ongoing guidance in Trailhead’s development: https://www.nrhythm.co/learn