by Adrian Shanker
In considering sustainability, one must ask:“How are the most marginalized in our community supported?” The sociocultural area of sustainability perhaps receives less attention than the economic and environmental pillars, but sociocultural sustainability has great influence on the future of the economy and environment. The impact can be determined by the degree to which a society supports and invests in their most marginalized populations and the work being done to reduce disparities and barriers to equity.
However, in terms of creating sustainability, it cannot be the marginalized group alone that does this. Instead, there must be unity among community organizations, community members, and local political, professional and corporate leadership if there is to be effective change. To have an educated, empathetic, economically-thriving, environmentally-conscious community in which the members contribute to its development we must first focus on elevating those who are marginalized and facing a series of challenging disparities.
For instance, we know the LGBT community faces significant health disparities. LGBT people consume tobacco and experience obesity at increased rates, receive fewer cancer screenings, are less likely to have doctors that fully understand our healthcare needs, and, in large numbers, have had negative experiences with healthcare professionals because of our LGBT status. By eliminating health disparities for marginalized populations and elevating the quality of life of marginalized populations, we are investing in the future. The more we eliminate the barriers to success that marginalized communities face, the more successful and sustainable our communities become.
In terms of economics, when we help people advance in a way that allows them to thrive financially, we promote a sustainable economy in which its people can give back to businesses, buy cars and homes, provide for their families, pay for their education, and develop financial investments.
At the most basic level, health equity means we are achieving high levels of health for all people. When people are part of a community in which they feel healthy, safe, valued, and respected, they are going to be more invested in that community and likely feel as though there is structural support to succeed within that community. We need to work hard to address, reduce, and eliminate the health disparities that hold marginalized communities back.
by Adrian Shanker
Adrian is Executive Director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. Located in downtown Allentown, the center provides arts & culture, health, and youth programs as well as supportive services for the LGBT community.
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)