Community Power
Community Power
Jonathan Heller on how equity requires shifting power

In this episode, Michael talks to Jonathan Heller, co-founder of Human Impact Partners and co-creator of the Health Equity Guide. Jonathan mentions the following:

  • Margaret Whitehead’s definition of inequity in health, which was taken from her seminal paper, The concepts and principles of equity and health [PubMed]
  • The Health Equity Guide, a project of Human Impact Partners showcasing strategic practices to confront the power imbalances that are at the root of health inequities
  • Steven Lukes’ theory of power having three faces, which you can read about in the new edition of his seminal book or listen to in this podcast episode
  • Systemic and structural racism, which you can learn more about in this 2022 article by Paula A Braveman and colleagues
  • A report by USC Dornsife’s Equity Research Institute (see the bottom of this page) that includes a definition of community power (see below) 

The definition of community power that Jonathan uses is the ability of communities most impacted by structural inequity to develop, sustain, and grow an organized base of people who act together through democratic structures to set agendas, shift public discourse, influence who makes decisions, and cultivate ongoing relationships of mutual accountability with decision makers that change systems and advance health equity (see the bullet above for the source).

Related reading:

  • For an excellent discussion on why ‘behaviour change’ endures in health promotion despite its failure to reduce health inequities see Baum & Fisher 2014 [PubMed]
  • Jonathan has created a short course with the University of Wisconsin entitled ‘Building Power for Health Equity’, the impressive syllabus of which is available online

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Ratio Talks is produced with the help of sound designer Nik Paget-Tomlinson and creative director Richard De Angelis. The show’s theme song is by Luca Picardi. 

In this series, Michael is exploring community power — what it is, how it’s linked to better outcomes, such as health, and what its limitations are. The series is in collaboration with Pritpal S Tamber, a researcher and consultant on the link between community power and health, and a Non-Executive Director of Ratio.