Midland’s Journey to Promote Health, Well-Being, and Equity
Five years into the Sentinel Communities Surveillance Project, Midland’s capacity to address the health needs of its community members is led by Midland Memorial Hospital and bolstered by a range of strategic partnerships.
Midland continues to take steps toward better health, well-being, and equity with an increase in addressing basic needs around food insecurity and homelessness; a strategic plan that focuses on topics including stronger neighborhoods and improved quality of life for residents; and a renewed focus on education and early literacy. Though there is a growing emphasis on mental health issues and improving quality of place, barriers remain in terms of developing a shared value of health and sharing health data. In 2017, there was little discussion of health equity and while that has changed somewhat in Midland over the past five years, discussions tend to be narrowly focused on access to healthcare.
Health Priorities and Narrative
Midland Memorial Hospital, operated by Midland Health, is working with community organizations to build trust and greater engagement on a range of health and wellness issues.
Midland is home to several initiatives focused on early literacy and improving the health and education outcomes of young children.
Though there is limited discussion about other social issues in the community, efforts to address homelessness and food insecurity are growing, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
Health Priorities and Narrative
Over the past five years Midland residents have continued to hold strong beliefs around individual responsibility for health.
However, there has been a shift in the conceptualization of health that places a heavier emphasis on the importance of mental and behavioral health.
Over the past five years, there has been a growing acknowledgement of health inequity in the region, and pockets of activity to address health equity have been led by individual organizations.
There has been a concerted effort to lift community voice in some local planning decisions and different groups within the community are learning to work together as Midland has rapidly become a “majority minority” city.
Lessons Learned: Where is Midland Five Years Later?
Midland’s journey to promote health and well-being illustrates the importance of anchor institutions and collaboration. Progress on health and health equity has happened slowly, but measurably.
There may be an opportunity to further advance how people think about health and also investments in health. To do this, Midland could continue to expand linkages between health and well-being with other community priorities, specifically as they relate to strengthening the economy and the education system.
Other communities can learn from Midland’s approaches, as well as the challenges they encountered, to inform their own journeys.
Future research could consider the ways in which the community can become more resilient to strong fluctuations in the oil industry, and how that type of resilience translates to improved health, equity, and well-being. It can also influence community health narratives and decisions moving forward.
The strength of Midland’s philanthropic foundations has long been a crucial facilitator in the community’s ability to work toward overall well-being, and more recently, health and quality of life. However, Midland is still grappling with how best to maintain a strong economy and workforce within the “boom and bust cycle” and the stark wealth gap keeps the community from achieving widespread health and prosperity.
Strong support from philanthropic foundations
Private sector involvement in improving “quality of life” for residents
Partnership with sister city, Odessa, allows for increased capacity for initiatives
Challenges of maintaining economic stability
Concerns around the economy and the struggling education system take precedent over health concerns
Strongly held health beliefs, guided by individualism and conservatism, pose barriers for collective action for health and well-being