Elana Brochin started working in community development through unconventional circumstances. In her previous role at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, she worked to advise hospitals on their community benefits programs. Nonprofit hospitals are required by federal tax law to spend some of their surplus on “community benefits,” which are goods and services that address a community need, and Massachusetts hospitals voluntarily report these expenditures to the Attorney General’s office. Although she had never heard of community development, she met our Executive Director Joe Kriesberg as part of this work, and it was a natural transition to move from the community benefits space to focusing on health equity in the context of community development. Elana believes strongly in the impact of social determinants of health, which is a public health term that refers to the ways in which factors such as socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment, social support networks, as well as access to health care impact community health outcomes.
In her words, “In order to lead healthy lives, people need to live in thriving communities and access resources that are needed to lead those healthy lives. Community development and health equity are inherently tied to one another.”
In Elana’s current role as the Program Director of Health Equity at MACDC, she works with MACDC members to facilitate connections between community development and health equity. This work includes facilitating relationships between CDCs and hospitals and other health advocacy groups, holding bimonthly health equity committee meetings, and teaching the course “Health Equity and Community Development” at the Mel King Institute.
This course is an introductory training suited for CDC staff interested in promoting health equity as part of their programming. The training is an opportunity to frame community development with a health equity lens, as well as learn about what other CDCs are doing in the health equity space. Elana has taught this course several times with Michelle Wiener, who formally worked at a local CDC and has a public health background.
One memorable moment from facilitating this MKI course came at the beginning of the pandemic, when training was shifted from in person to online. In mid-2020, this iteration of the training involved ten medical school students seeking creative learning opportunities. Elana was excited to provide a much-needed community development perspective, and the medical student’s introduction to the community development training concepts highlighted for her a missing piece of doctor’s medical education.
Another recent accomplishment involved providing a guide for CDCs to encourage partnerships with hospitals and understand hospital community benefits. Elana held a webinar to introduce MACDC members to the guide and to offer technical assistance. In her unique position as Director of Health Equity, she was able to translate useful information to provide value for CDCs across Massachusetts.
As for the future, Elana is excited to continue cultivating strong relationships between hospitals and CDCs to advance both health equity and community development. The power of health institutions to create change both in terms of financial investments and policy positions remains a relatively untapped resource. In her words, “It is not surprising to anybody when MACDC comes out in support of progressive, affordable housing policy. But it does make policymakers and the public look twice when you have medical professionals advocating for affordable housing.” Elana looks forward to leading further conversations among these groups and strengthening relationships moving forward.
What other health equity trainings do you want to see? Contact Elana at her email: firstname.lastname@example.org.