In 2019, at the Live Well Omaha Changemaker Summit, Keynote Speaker Natalie Burke, President and CEO of CommonHealth ACTION illuminated that words matter..

“The words we use, the negative and positive connotations of those words make a world of difference,” said Burke.  

Natalie challenged everyone to get uncomfortable because discomfort is temporary. She shared a starting Living Glossary that her organization had created. And, she asked people at the Summit to “orchestrate constructive discomfort and to recognize that you can develop tools that allow you to move through it in a way that you can create conditions where all people can achieve their best possible health.” This challenge is something that the Live Well Omaha coalition has undertaken in 2019.

First, we have adopted her meeting guidelines as a way to practice inclusive and common language:

  1. Respectful Listening
  2. Respectful Talking
  3. Principle of Gratitude
  4. Be Present
  5. Confidentiality
  6. Be Honest
  7. Literacy Check “Ask Questions”
  8. Assume Good Intentions
  9. Hold Space for Healthy Conflict 

Second, we recruited key partners to help us hold a Language Lab with our coalition membership to craft a local glossary of what we want to communicate and what we do not want to communicate. So with the help of Stephani Tyrance, CityMATCH and Andy Wessel, Douglas County Health Department the Live Well Omaha coalition  is getting uncomfortable and working on orchestrating creative discomfort. In February, Live Well Omaha hosted the First Language Lab as part of the Quarter 1 Membership Meeting to begin our local Glossary and work toward a perspective transformation for inclusive and impactful work.

The term perspective transformation comes from the transformative learning theory developed by Jack Mezirow and it is “the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world…” by undergoing perspective transformation we are “changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrating perspective; and, finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings.” According to Natalie Burke, this perspective transformation should lead us to an equity lens. Live Well Omaha as well as our members and partners hope that by undertaking the challenge given to us by Natalie we are working together as a health coalition, to create conditions in the Metro area where every person in our community can live their best and healthiest lives. It is important that we have a common glossary because words matter, it is important that we have uncomfortable conversations because health equity matters.

So now you may find yourself thinking, how can I be a part of this conversation? And my response to you is that you can take part in the challenge that Natalie gave us. So here it goes, I am embracing discomfort because it’s only temporary. 

My name is Claudia, I am a community organizer, I am Latinx and a first generation American, and I’m going to share just a little bit about my experience with health inequity. Being first gen and the oldest, I have seen how my parents, family, friends, and community experience health inequity. I have felt the stares and heard the dismissive and sometimes rude tones that some people in the health sector gave my parents. The impatience when my parents struggled to communicate their needs, the way that they would talk to my parents as if they were incapable of understanding and instead addressing me to communicate results. It was the feeling of powerlessness and of inadequacy, injustice, anger, sadness, and shame that led me to ask why does this happen and what can I do to change this? Although times have changed and the system has made incredible strives forward, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. I was the voice for my parents when it came to dealing with health care service inequity. However, I hope that no one else has to go through what we went through I hope that through the work that we are doing and that is ongoing in the metro we can create meaningful and sustainable progress towards health equity for my family and every individual.

Want to help shape the Language Lab Glossary for the metro area?  Join Live Well Omaha for the Language Lab Part Two. Click here to indicate your interest as this will be held in late Summer.