Guiding Principles

We believe in creating a community where everyone belongs and thrives, regardless of race, neighborhood, or financial status. This vision guides our work, and we recognize that how we do our work is just as important as the work itself.

Drawing on the insights from our Community Health Assessment, we’re committed to addressing the root causes of health disparities, focusing on systems-level change, and building on the strengths of our diverse communities.

Healthy Whatcom focuses on:

  • Prevention: Stopping problems before they start, like building a strong foundation for a house.
  • Upstream solutions: Addressing root causes of health issues, like improving the soil around the house.
  • Early childhood well-being: Investing in early childhood well-being sets children up for success in school, career, and life.
  • Racial equity: Ensuring equal opportunities for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, and background.

This approach leads to a healthier, more productive, and equitable society with a stronger future workforce, reduced healthcare costs, and a more just and inclusive community.

Building Community Power

At Healthy Whatcom, we believe in amplifying the voices of people of color and community members directly impacted by the issues we address. This ensures our work reflects their needs and experiences, leading to real change.

To achieve this, participating organizations are committed to self-reflection and accountability in how they operate. We recognize that true transformation requires action, not just words. Therefore, we prioritize co-developing programs and policies with community members with lived experience.

Unveiling Systemic Inequity: the Groundwater Approach

Adapted from the Racial Equity Institute

Have you ever wondered why disparities linger after discriminatory laws are repealed?

The culprit is systemic inequity, like hidden pollutants tainting a well. Historically, racial bias poisoned the systems we depend on: healthcare, education, housing, and more. The long-term effects of this racial bias continues to affect communities of color today.

In this video, Healthy Whatcom participants explain how our work aims to address systemic inequities, by considering “The Groundwater Approach” from the Racial Equity Institute.

  • Racial inequities exist across different areas because the bias infects the entire system, not just specific policies.
  • While income and wealth play a role, the groundwater approach emphasizes how racism itself is a significant reason for disparities.
  • The root cause lies within the systems themselves, not the behaviors or cultures of different racial groups.
  • By recognizing the root cause (contaminated system), we can design solutions that address the system itself, not just individual symptoms.
  • It takes the focus away from blaming individuals or cultures for their situations and places the responsibility on fixing the systemic issues.
  • The emphasis is on preventing future disparities by addressing the source of the contamination, leading to lasting change.

By acknowledging this tainted “groundwater,” we can design solutions focused on racial equity, building a healthier and more equitable community for everyone.

Groundwater” in the context of public health