ASHWG's Racial Equity Challenge

  • Aug 25, 2022

Written by the ASHWG Steering Committee

Successfully making a change in our lives is challenging. Many of us working in the field of sexual and reproductive health are familiar with a variety of behavior change theories (i.e. the Transtheoretical model and the Health Promotion Theory) and how to apply them in public health interventions to promote a healthy change such as using safer sex products correctly and consistency. Yet, when it comes to translating these theories practice, the theories are not as clear cut as textbooks describe. Change is messy, non-linear, and often includes deep introspection to understand the root causes of our own actions and biases.

With racial injustice issues continuing to significantly impact our everyday lives, including sexual and reproductive health, ASHWG is having more conversations about how it can actively work to dismantle racism. In spring and summer of 2021, the ASHWG Steering Committee (SC) engaged in a multi-month racial equity habit building challenge. The intention was to commit to deepening our understanding of power, privilege, white supremacy, equity, and oppression, specifically in the racist and horrific sexual and reproductive health history in the United States and set a strong foundation for ASHWG to begin having conversations on equity before adopting an anti-racist framework.

Here’s how the challenge worked:

  • Each month SC members engaged with a variety of materials to read, listen, watch and notice
  • We reflected our thoughts in a Tracking Tool after engaging with each material
  • We met as a group to discuss the materials and share thoughts

This schedule helped support a new habit for SC members, including incorporating regular readings of critical materials about racial justice, sexual and reproductive justice, health equity and the intersection of all three into our daily lives, sharing materials with other colleagues and engaging in dialogue, and building a foundation of shared understanding of equity.

The ASHWG SC’s Racial Equity Challenge was designed in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health Office of Healthy Equity’s Racial Equity Specialist, Lazaro Cardenas. He skillfully and gracefully facilitated group discussions and passed along many helpful tools and resources to build our understanding and continue the conversation after SC meetings. As SC members, we valued having a dedicated time and safe space to dialogue with colleagues about the challenging truths in our country’s history, how those truths are present today, and how we each see our role in accelerating reproductive justice and equity.

At the conclusion of the multi- month racial equity challenge, ASHWG SC shared the experience back to General Members, including the many incredible resources we learned about (see them linked below). This work is ongoing and is a habit we are committed to making space for in ASHWG’s goals and activities as well as our SC and General meetings. We don’t have all the answers yet, nor should we since this work truly is done in the everyday little changes. I hope you will encourage ASHWG to continue this course by playing an active role in shaping its anti-racist framework and critically reflecting on ways you can adopt some lasting changes in your personal and professional life when it comes to racial equity.

Here is a list of the helpful resources and tools ASHWG SC learned about and used throughout this process:

  1. ASHWG Steering Committee 21 Day Challenge 2021 Materials:
  2. The Calgary Anti-Racism Education Glossary is also very useful and more comprehensive:
  3. The continuum of becoming an anti-racist multi-cultural organization:
  4. CDC’s recently launched portal of “Gateway to Health Communication”: