Reflection and Anticipation: Welcoming 2021 with Important Lessons Learned

December 28, 2020 |  By Transform Health

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From the desk of our CEO, Lisa Chan-Sawin, MHA

Given the socially distanced world we are living in right now, at Transform Health we took a beat at the end of this profoundly tumultuous year to write down some of the things we are grateful for and eager to get to work on next year. Hint: we are ready to roll up our sleeves along with you to tackle some of the biggest problems facing health care yet. We began 2020 with the hope and promise of a new year replete with challenges, but also a bounty of opportunities in the form of solving big health policy problems. As a women and minority-owned small business facing the same challenges as other small businesses around the country, we never expected a global pandemic of unprecedented scale would happen during our lifetime, and with devastating impacts to all of our lives. COVID-19 has laid bare deeply entrenched inequities in our health care ecosystem. At the same time, we remain hopeful at the resolve of our staff, partners, and clients who have risen to the myriad challenges and learned invaluable lessons at this critical juncture in the history of public health. We are deeply grateful to be a part of health system transformation during this moment and maintain a deep well of gratitude to our clients and partners, and to those individuals who are boots on the ground, day in, day out, putting in countless hours to battle this pandemic in real-time. We are indebted to the direct service workers, the local public health officials, community clinics, our hospitals, and so many others among us who have fought and continue to help fight for our most vulnerable. Our charge, as we look towards the horizon, is to continue to ask the hard questions that move us to a more integrated, accessible, efficient, and equitable health system, and we are ready to roll up our sleeves, jump in and get to work for 2021, and beyond. But don’t just read this from me, here is what our staff have to say in reflection and anticipation… . Heather Bates, MSW, COO and VP of Stakeholder Engagement This past year ushered in some of the hardest problems for each of us at the most microscopic level. Some of us found ourselves living alone in quarantine and isolation, while others had to juggle more lives than we ever have before with Zoom schooling and caregiving. At Transform Health, we are in the business of solving some of the hardest problems that people bring to us. It is why we do what we do. This year upped the ante! We learned first-hand about the extreme vulnerabilities of the human condition and experienced profound collective trauma, pain, and loss. At the same time, we uncovered tremendous hope by being the change we need from exercising our freedom of speech to engaging in our democracy. Never have we collectively braved and witnessed so much sea change in such a short amount of time in isolation from each other. Looking ahead, I am excited for the hope on the horizon that will shepherd in the ability for us to tackle some of the hardest health equity and access issues we now face with the fervor and gusto these entrenched problems always deserved. Trusted messengers are essential workers, such as Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and Community Health Workers, who serve as the gateway to coverage, access, public health education, health literacy, and care and they must be a key workforce at the table as we move towards progress as a nation. Gretchen Schroeder, MPH, Deputy Director The year 2020 had no shortage of challenges not just for us and our partners, but most acutely for the vulnerable populations living on our streets. While COVID-19 is a universal event, its impact is not experienced equitably. People experiencing homelessness felt the impact of COVID-19 exponentially multiplied by their circumstances and required our partners to pivot in the dark and coordinate large-scale education, prevention, care, and reporting protocols to help serve this community. We are so grateful for the work of our partners and clients whose tireless effort to create viable, coordinated solutions for our most vulnerable population during this profound time of instability and insecurity. We look forward to continuing this vital work alongside our partners and do our part to make equity, sustainability, and systems transformation part of the solution in 2021 and beyond. Alexis Sabor, CAPM, Project Manager There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on all the ways in which our systems fail the American people. From health care to police enforcement to social services at large – these systems were not built around the notion that all of us are “created equal”. In our line of work, this is something we talk about all the time. But, in 2020, the greater public has been forced to address the vast inequities faced by many living in this country, particularly for BIPOC and LGBTQIA folks who face the brunt of injustice in every system. It is not lost us on that this year we witnessed unprecedented voter turnout, community organizing in almost every city around #BlackLivesMatter and more engagement in local, state and federal politics in general. The devastation brought on by COVID-19 has made it nearly impossible to deny that there are big problems that must be solved in almost every sector and we the people have the right to demand and create change. Our work is grounded in finding solutions to big problems through health system transformation. In 2021, we hope to do just that by continuing to acknowledge what needs to change and move towards rebuilding our systems in a way that actually help the people these systems intend to serve. With the impending change in administration, it is more critical than ever to push our elected representatives to undo the institutional inequities faced by our most vulnerable communities in regard to health care, housing, voting, immigration, civil rights and more. We are on the precipice of great change, and it’s up to us to ensure that we use this opportunity to create and fight for lasting, equitable solutions that do just that. Sara Gleysteen, MPH, Policy Analyst Reflecting on this year, there are many lessons to be learned and best practices to take away from the events that have transpired since January 1st. It is impossible to ignore the reality of what COVID-19 has done to communities across the world–especially here at home where the compounding effects of the systemic inequity, widespread economic shutdowns, social injustice and the cracks in our health care system have converged to create a perfect storm for the most vulnerable among us. Intimate partner violence, increased substance use, and economic and food insecurity touch every state in our union due to disjointed federal decision making in what has been a uniquely challenging time in modern history. On the other hand, resilience has a steadfast seat at the table as we’ve seen partners rise to the challenge for multiple populations across the country from immediate ramp-up of local public health response and expansion of Special Enrollment Periods to get people covered, to the creative leveraging of 1135 waiver authorities to develop provider and facility flexibility during early surges. As we look to 2021 with a new year, a new administration, and a new set of priorities on the horizon the drum beat of equity and improving health in all communities is a beat that remains as strong as ever, and we can’t wait to continue the work here at Transform Health. Rochelle Mulondo, Program and Policy Analyst The year 2020 has been a challenging for many of us, but as we end the year, we are empowered to know that these challenging times have sparked social awareness, heightened advocacy, and inspired hard work to ensure that all vulnerable communities’ rights are safeguarded against ongoing systemic inequities. These injustices have plagued our system for decades, but over the course of this year, our systems’ pitfalls have been brought to light like never before. We all sat in our living rooms across the country, watching George Floyd call out for his mother while gripping our loved ones a little closer. We all watched health care workers morph into modern superheroes as they grappled with an overburdened health care system. The whole world is finally watching, and the importance of partnership has become increasingly apparent. We are excited to continue to build partnerships within our communities to enact revolutionary positive change and to shift the paradigm. Now more than ever, innovative thinkers are needed to meet the challenge that lie ahead of us. At Transform Health, we are in the business of innovation and transformation, and we are eager to meet this challenge head on in 2021. We are ready to work on systems transformation at all levels to ensure that good health care is a right not a privilege for everyone, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or socioeconomic status. Arely Lopez, Assistant Program Coordinator This year was nothing short of tumultuous. Everything from the rise of social movements– like #BlackLivesMatter– to the unexpected consequences of a global pandemic, further unveiled the deficiencies and inequities of the systems we currently operate under. People who are experiencing homelessness and are high utilizers of the health care system were among the most vulnerable populations to have felt the impact of what occurred this year. COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need for equitable access to housing along with access to quality health care services and coverage across the country. Although we’ve all felt moments of stress, fear, and hopelessness, there is hope in knowing that there are individuals, organizations, and members in our communities who are working tirelessly on the frontlines and behind-the-scenes to create and be the change that we want to see. There is power in knowing that there are people whose minds and creativities are not confined by today’s social constructs; instead, they are imagining and working toward a more just and equitable world. I am grateful to be a member of the Transform Health team and to continue working toward an equitable health system. To close out what we are both thankful for, and looking forward to, please join us in welcoming our newest team member: Rana Suliman, MPH, Program Director As eloquently noted by my Transform Health colleagues, 2020 was in many ways a truth teller. The ugly, harsh, violent truths brought to light by the health and economic crises of COVID-19, as well as a renewed national civil rights movement, needed to be dredged up to the surface with such force and urgency that we couldn’t look away. We needed to face the reality that our public health and safety-net infrastructures are woefully ill-prepared to address the demands of a pandemic. We needed to face the reality that lawmakers were attempting to chip away at the ACA even as coverage gains were reversing amidst one of the largest mass casualty events in history. We needed to face the reality of gender-based inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, including increased rates of intimate partner violence and an estimated one-third of mothers forced to leave the workforce under the crushing strain of balancing home and work life. We needed to face the reality that we cannot address COVID-19 disparities and other health inequities in BIPOC communities without reconciling the deep-seated racial injustices that have persisted in this country for centuries and are deeply ingrained across every aspect of American life. These truths challenged us individually and collectively, stretched us to our limits, shook us to our core, and brought us immeasurable grief. However, this year also inspired us, galvanized us, moved us to action, and revealed our true heroes. I look forward to the possibilities and opportunities brought forward by recognizing and speaking truth to power. I am humbled and grateful to join this journey with the Transform Health staff, clients, and partners, as we work to create transformative and meaningful systems change, support vulnerable populations in living with self-determination, dignity, and security, and solve our most pressing health equity challenges. Let this not be a moment that will pass, but a catalyst for real, sustainable, and impactful change. Here’s to continuing the good fight! . To learn more about our staff, please see our Our Team page. To work with us or learn more about Transform Health please contact Heather Bates at