CTLN Opinion+: Ellen Carter

Hugo Balta

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This week CTLN Opinion + had the opportunity to speak with Ellen Carter, Vice President of Program of Connecticut Health Foundation. Ellen’s primary role oversees the foundation’s grantmaking, health policy, strategic communications, advocacy, leadership, and evaluation.

Connecticut Health Foundation is an independent, non-partisan foundation where the main focus is to bring health equity to the state of Connecticut. Regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, the foundation efforts support everyone in Connecticut to achieve optimal health. 

CTH’s mission focuses on the following areas to ensure that the next generation will not suffer the same racial and ethnic health disparities as their parents. It provides grants for nonprofits and government agencies, advocates for policy change that will improve health outcomes, connect research and data on potential solutions to health equity, and publishes reports and communicates to people on these issues and why they are important. 

When asked about how the pandemic affected the organization and how they provided community services, Ellen explained, “The pandemic brought to light a lot of the issues that our health foundation has focused on for many years and understanding that not everyone has the best opportunity to achieve optimal health that there are large disparities, particular communities of color, blacks, and Latinos communities have seen significant disparities throughout the pandemic. So, the foundation shifted pretty rapidly over the course of 2020 to reallocate our dollars so that we can best support the communities that were most affected by the pandemic.” 

Connecticut is one of the nation’s healthiest states, yet data reveals significant disparities in health by race and ethnicity. According to statistics, health disparities and the conditions that cause them are significant problems deep-rooted that have steep costs to individuals, communities, and the economy.  Connecticut is learning and working to make the state one where everyone can be as healthy as possible, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. 

Another topic of discussion that originated from their tagline. “Changing System Improving Lives,” how do you create systems to change? What does it mean? “Really, what it means is that we are trying to identify the rules, the policies, and the practices that are in place at a higher level than when you are delivering a program that affects the way that outcomes that people have. So, how are things being done, and what are the policies’ laws in place behind the way things are done affects people’s lives.”

CTH’s approach to system change is to create an enduring, systemwide change that not only solves problems but improves the health outcomes for future generations to come. “But what we are trying to do is go a level further and figure out how the system that that program operates within needs to change in order to change outcomes. Because really when you talk to people at systems change, you say that the system is working how it is set up to work, so if there is inequity in the outcomes, it means that there is something wrong in the way the system was set up in order to get that inequity and that is what we are trying to affect.”

Resources mentioned in the video: