The Public Health Institute of Western MA and Women of Color Health Equity Collective (WOCHEC) have joined with the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) to: (a) bring together individuals and organizations to build their racial justice capacity, and (b) form a coalition to achieve long-term, equitable systems change that addresses tobacco use and related chronic diseases across our four-county region.

The public health field has long called out historic and current racial hierarchies as root causes of health inequities. There are myriad bodies of research that prove that racism is a determinant of poor health outcomes for people of color.  We see that in our regional health data, including in tobacco usage and related adverse health outcomes. Therefore dismantling racism and white supremacy must be central to any solutions and strategies. 

This unique initiative seeks to do so by engaging participants at multiple levels:

  1. Individuals who want to come together across diverse backgrounds, demographics, counties, and sectors to deepen their knowledge and skills and grow their personal and professional leadership on a shared journey to becoming champions for racial equity.
  2. Their Organizations that want to build capacity within their teams (staff, board, volunteers) to strengthen racial equity internally and work on racial justice issues externally.
  3. A Coalition of these individuals and organizations that comes together to create a model for centering racial justice practices inside and out while taking collective action on policy, systems, and environmental change. Initially, these actions will relate to predatory tobacco marketing, and then other community concerns.​​​​


Our approach 

Our approach includes:

  1. Engage participants in shared learning about racial equity together through discussion, trainings, and peer support to move individuals along a continuum. (See Action Continuum graphic.) The continuum is based on the understanding that each person thinks and acts on racism in some form from actively participating in racism to outright preventing it.  And many folks may act in different ways depending on the environment they are in at any given time. 
    • For example, the coalition offered the Groundwater Training to coalition members and other interested individuals last fall.
  2. Offer various types of tailored capacity building and coaching within organizations to strengthen internal policies and systems to support racial equity and move them along a continuum.
    • For example, some organizations get Technical Assistance from WOCHEC to assess their organization, understand where they are on the continuum, receive tailored training and coaching and build internal capacity to move toward Initiating and Prevention. We intend to add a few additional pilots in the next year.
  3. Create a critical mass of institutions in our region that have the understanding, tools, and courage to enter the world each day with the “Initiating/Prevention” mindset and act accordingly.
    • We anticipate that individual technical assistance, combined with peer learning and shared use of common tools to assess and measure progress, will support mutual accountability and lead to sustained movement over time while laying the groundwork for collective action.
  4. Increase the collective capacity of the coalition to influence causes of poor health like predatory marketing of tobacco products, economic drivers, and housing, and ultimately reduce health inequities in our region.
    • Our initial tobacco assessment surfaced predatory tobacco marketing as a key cause of racial disparities in tobacco use. We are actively seeking to grow an emerging coalition to take on this issue, made up of organizations that are experts in anti-racism capacity building, as well as community-based organizations, municipalities, direct service agencies, planning agencies, and academia.
Action Continuum

Race and Health Equity Resource Guide

Visit the Race and Health Equity Resource Guide to search for practical tools for you and your organization; to find guidance to help make changes at your organization; and to learn how others have put resources into practice!