Disparities Leadership Program Alumni Spotlight: Frank Rodriguez


Rodriguez_FrankSenior Policy Advisor, City of Austin Mayor’s Office

Austin, Texas

  1. Why are you passionate about this type of work?

I’ve always had a personal interest in social justice and equity. I grew up dealing with inequities in health and healthcare, such as lack of insurance, education, fresh food, clean air, chronic stress, and more. My favorite quote growing up was MLK’s “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

  1. What was your “aha” moment while working on equity-related efforts at your organization?

My “aha” moment was when I realized the difference between “equity” and “disparities” as confusion of these terms in discussion could lead to misdirection of resources. Health equity means social justice in health and health disparities. Health disparities are the metrics we use to measure progress toward achieving health equity. Without understanding the difference in definitions, some people may have very different ideas of what is avoidable, unnecessary, and unjust.

  1. What part of the Disparities Leadership Program has been the most useful in moving your work forward?

The DLP provided me with valuable resources, networking opportunities, and skills towards shaping health policy and creating greater health equity for vulnerable populations in Central Texas. The opportunity to meet and network with practitioners, researchers, and community activists current impacting health and healthcare was also incredibly useful. Completion of the program gave me greater credibility and landed me a position in the Mayor’s Office as his health policy advisor.

  1. What is one piece of advice you would give anyone working on disparities/equity related efforts?

That despite the number and variety of health disparities initiatives, approaches should be scalable and able to provide evidence of significant outcomes. To do this, I would recommend a hybrid approach. The first part is to utilize the path of disparity reduction involving essential clinical services and interventions developed by health status or diagnostic categories. The second part is incorporating community programs and policies that address the socioeconomic fundamentals of community development and health. A hybrid approach to improving health outcomes and reducing disparities has the advantage of being clinically centered while also leveraging community participation and resources.

For more information about the Disparities Leadership Program, click here.

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