Northern Arizona University’s Fairness First Campaign: Promoting Community Health Equity

Bringing community organizations and researchers together through discussions, experiential learning, and social mixers

Diverse group of researchers wearing masks posing on stairs.
Faculty and staff of the Northern Arizona University’s Center for Health Equity Research and Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative on the steps of their campus building. Photo credit: The Center for Health Equity Research.

Carmenlita Chief, M.P.H., and Alexandra Samarron Longorio, RDN, have devoted their careers to ensuring that every person, especially those from the most underrepresented and underserved communities, receives a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. It was this commitment to health equity that sparked the senior research coordinators at Northern Arizona University’s Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative’s (NAU SHERC) Community Engagement Core to create their recently released Fairness First Campaign (FFC).

“As members of communities that carry the burden of health inequities here in the Southwest, Alexandra and I know firsthand that health equity and justice cannot be achieved without the meaningful inclusion of diverse community perspectives on health,” Chief says. “Communities require unobstructed access to health research opportunities, as well as the knowledge gleaned from research, and all in a manner that is relevant to them. This is why we designed the Fairness First Campaign to be a welcoming platform where community members across the Southwest and researchers can connect and comfortably exchange ideas to inform our collective journey towards health equity for all.”

Through four different formats––expert “X” learning talks, artistic mixers, podcasts, and blogs––the FFC hopes to attract a variety of audiences to support inclusive, meaningful conversations in communities throughout Arizona about health equity, fairness, and justice.

Fairness FirstX Talks: Bimonthly presentations by health equity researchers

Fairness FirstX (FFX) Talks provide SHERC health equity researchers and affiliates an opportunity to share their work with the broader community in an approachable way. Through these live, one-hour online events, researchers explain their research focus in a way that community partners and leaders can understand and connect with. These talks are modeled after the popular TEDx Talk events that happen around the world.

Four female community health researchers and professionals posing for a photo.
From left, Carmenlita Chief poses with Samantha Sabo, associate professor, CHER and NAU’s Department of Health Sciences and SHERC, Community Engagement Core co-lead, Alexandra Samarron Longorio, and Nicolette Teufel-Shone, associate director of CHER and SHERC Community Engagement Core lead. Photo credit: The Center for Health Equity Research.

“Health Equity research is about recognizing the lived experiences of communities who experience social injustice as experiential knowledge that has the strength to inform research design and implementation,” Samarron says. “Without that knowledge, participation, and leadership of communities, there is no pathway to health equity. For this reason, the Fairness First Campaign is a space where health equity can be grounded in a message that includes and highlights diverse understandings of what well-being and health justice is and how communities can thrive.”

Samarron adds, “We want to broaden the knowledge and strategies in which we address unfairness in our communities beyond an academic focus. We recognize that communities impacted by inequity are innovative and resourceful in addressing issues related to health inequity, such as institutional racism, housing inaccessibility, economic precarity, and limited transportation.”

The FFX talks are intended to promote conversations between researchers and community members on those innovative strategies.

Health Justice Futures: Bi-monthly visual art and Indigenous health online events

According to Chief and Samarron, the goal for this event series is to elevate community-grounded conversations about issues that influence health justice and fairness for communities in the Southwest through the powerful and expressive vehicle of the arts.

The FFC’s first Health Justice Futures event, “Visual Art and Indigenous Health,” featured Diné artists Liva’ndrea Knoki and Garrett Etsitty. With about 50 people in the virtual audience, the artists and hosts discussed the necessity of art in the mobilization of Indigenous* communities for health justice, the power of visibility, and the importance of health justice in the context of Indigenous sovereignty, settler colonialism, and community-engaged research. Watch the event on YouTube.

Fairness First Podcast

Three women sitting at a table recording a podcast.
From left, Carmenlita Chief, Nicolette Teufel-Shone, associate director of CHER and SHERC Community Engagement Core lead, and Alexandra Samarron Longorio, tape the second episode of their Fairness First podcast. Photo credit: The Center for Health Equity Research.

With each new episode, the Fairness First podcast tackles meaningful topics on health equity at a more advanced level. However, the discussion is explained so that everyone listening can learn from their engaging topics, such as:

  • “What is Health Equity, Anyway?”
  • “What are Community-Campus Partnerships?”
  • “A Shared Vision for Health Equity”
  • “Health Equity Voices,” where Samarron interviews Cristian Erick Tapia, RN, on his experiences with COVID-19 in a local hospital.

“Our goal for these podcast episodes is to invite community voices into our explorations of health equity issues in the Southwest and to really illuminate the movement toward health equity as one that involves multiple sectors of our community, such as education, transportation, food systems, housing, and justice systems, to name a few,” Chief says.

Fairness First blog: Researchers voices in health equity

The Fairness First blog represents a space where SHERC researchers can showcase their health equity work by discussing why health equity research matters to them, how they connect to health equity, and what value community engagement has in their research process.

The first blog post, authored by Catrin Edgeley, Ph.D., assistant professor of Natural Resources in the NAU School of Forestry, discussed “How Do Wildfires Affect Health Equity?” In the post, Dr. Edgeley discusses the social impacts of wildfires and how smoke can be an environmental justice issue.

“We hope this campaign will help community members, leaders, and researchers focus on creative and grounded ways to address social, systemic and institutional inequities within our communities and recognize the historical conditions of violence and neglect in which communities have had to survive,” Samarron says. “All this with the intention to visualize what would it mean and take for communities to reach optimal well-being and health in our region.”

Together, the Fairness FirstX Talks, Health Justice Futures events, art and literature mixtures, podcast, and blogs will help SHERC researchers and community members engage in meaningful conversations on ways to promote health equity for all living in the Southwest. For a list of Fairness First Campaign events and access to past events, visit the Fairness First Campaign website.

We would like to acknowledge the Center for Health Equity Research and Southwest Health Equity Research team for contributing this feature article.

*The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) uses the categories American Indian or Alaska Native to designate persons having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. The term Indigenous is used by the investigators for this study and related events.

Page updated December 30, 2021