Lovell’s Food For Thought – The Spirituality of the Unity Principles & Addressing Health Inequities
A Second Appeal to Connect the Dots
Dr. Lovell Jones | 2/1/2019, 10:31 p.m.
For almost 40 years I have been talking about connecting the dots. Seventeen years ago, the Health Disparities, Education, Awareness, Research & Training Consortium (HDEART C) was launched in an attempt to pull institutions out of their silos. Two years ago, the HDEART Health Equity Scholars and Alumni Network (HHESAN) was launched to bring individuals together, both those at HDEART C institutions, but especially those who were not based at HDEART C institutions. For if we are going to successfully address health inequities, we are going to need to truly climb out of our silos and connect the dots (http://stylemagazine.com/news/2016/oct/24/lovells-food-thought-connecting-dots/). What I have also found is that this is easier said than done. We have been so conditioned to “me, rather than “we”, especially when talking about addressing the poor and/or underserved. We talk about these populations pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, when you are expecting them to have boots or even shoes in the first place. And assuming that even if they have boots, the boots will have bootstraps. Our perceptions regarding the poor and/or underserved are, in most cases, far from reality. As I often say, “A person’s perception is a person’s reality, whether real or not.” However, one of those perceptions I have attempted to address for years, is that all of the independent efforts by those who sincerely want to address health inequities, or at least believe that they can, is to address this issue in their respective silos. One of the lessons I have learned is, “No one center or one institution or profession will solve the problems we face.” Our society continues to support such a notion that one will, when in reality, it has been and will continue to be a team effort that solves the problems. For example, you can have a great offensive line and an above average or even an average quarterback in football and win football games. But you can’t have a mediocre offensive line and an outstanding quarterback and win games. Now think of the great offensive linemen acting independently and the mediocre one acts in unison, what do you think will happen? Get the symbolism, the strength of connecting the dots.
Recently I heard a sermon from The Reverend Michael Gott of Unity of Houston. He reaffirmed the idea of connecting the dots. The title of his sermon was “Woven Together.” The theme of the sermon was around the strength of interdependence and spirituality. I was fascinated with Skill Six of Cindy Wiggleworth’s book entitled, SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence. It states that one should establish “connectiveness with all that is.” On a spiritual level, it is connecting the dots.
During the sermon, The Reverend Gott also quoted Martin Luther King in relationship to Skill 6. We think we are separated, but in fact we are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together in a single garment of destiny.” We continue to approach addressing health inequities in a siloed fashion. As in our society, we continue to forget everything is connected to everything else. There are no independent islands, yet we tend to focus on problems as independent entities. And where has that gotten us? As The Reverend Gott said, any of the individual threads in any piece of a garment is very flimsy and easily broken. However, when they are woven together in and out of each other, the garment becomes something very strong. What is also important about this symbol and why is it important to highlight? Those of us, the underserved and others, who are working to address health inequities, sometimes feel as if we are an isolated thread. However, in connecting the dots, like that of a woven garment where every thread both supports the threads around it and is supported by the threads around it, we can achieve that same level of mutual support and strengthen our efforts. That when we are in need of support, we can reach out and gain that support from the network of dots, and when others are in need, we are there to do the same. As I listened to the sermon, and the impact of a spiritual network, it truly reinforced the concept of connecting the dots.
This is where the HDEART C and HHESAN come in. These efforts are attempting to provide a platform and network for all who may be taking different paths, but whose journey directly or indirectly focuses on the elimination of inequities, be they health or others inequities, to unite in supporting each other: A Call to Action to Unify.
Perception is reality to those who perceive it, whether it’s real or not. We can only address perceptions through open and honest dialog. And the only way to have dialog is through connectivity, and through that, develop interdependence. We learn that interdependence is an important concept in addressing inequities; that there is a shared responsibility in addressing this issue. That we cannot do this alone.
As I stated in the opening paragraph, “No one center or one institution or profession will solve the problems we face.” But I have learned several other things. Second, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you already got. Because we are in silos, we are constantly reinventing the wheel. Third, what is publishable may not be relevant, but what is relevant can always be made publishable. Today, addressing health inequities is fashionable. The number of journals featuring articles on addressing health inequities has increased significantly. Fourth, a true change in the paradigm is needed. Given where we are in addressing health inequities, this is self-evident. Fifth, a person’s perception is a person’s reality, whether real or not. I need not say more than I have already said. Sixth, if the problems are in the community, then the community must be involved in determining the solutions. Seven, If you attempt to address a disparities issue as a single problem of just one disease, without taking into account other factors, you have already failed to address the problem at the beginning and the outcome will be like placing a Band Aid on a heart attack. It may feel good to you, but what about the person you are trying to help? This is why HDEART C based its efforts on a biopsychosocial (holistic) approach. And last: The solution to organizational effectiveness revolves around six key words: trust, respect, partnership, communication, flexibility and knowledge. These six key words are essential to any aspect of life and are crucial in addressing inequities.
Even if effectively implemented, the majority of these lessons learned, unless connected together across and within broad diverse groups, society will be constantly wondering when we will see the end to inequities. Society could ultimately become tone deaf to the need to address this issue. As this country becomes more and more diverse, time is not on our side. So, I am asking those of you who believe in “we” rather than “me,” to join and link up to enhance our efforts to eliminate health inequities. You can do this by going to http://hdeartconsortium.org/benefits/ and clicking on the button in the upper right-hand corner. It is the first step in truly solving the issues by bring out together and out of our silos and truly change the paradigm.