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Meet Linn County’s first health equity program manager, Anne Harris Carter
Longtime community advocate to address structural barriers to health equity locally
CEDAR RAPIDS — The fact Anne Harris Carter’s new job is based in a building named after her parents is not only surreal, but also represents “tremendous responsibility” for her new role at Linn County Public Health.
As the first-ever health equity program manager at the county public health department, Carter said it’s now her responsibility to demonstrate county officials “are serious about making change.”
“Creating a position like this does send a message that this is a priority,” Carter told The Gazette from her office in the Dr. Percy Harris and Lileah Harris Building in Cedar Rapids. The Building was named in 2019 after her parents, who were lifelong advocates for health and education.
In this new role, Carter will lead Linn County Public Health’s efforts to address structural barriers to health across the county, which will include developing programs and initiatives internally or with other community organizations.
Countless studies have shown social and environmental factors can influence an individual’s ability to achieve the best health outcomes. Many of these barriers to health equity arise from systematic factors, such as poverty or racism.
In fact, the Linn County Board of Health declared racism as a public health crisis in 2020, calling for the establishment of what is now the Office of Health Equity.
This stance long has been accepted among public health experts nationwide, and many other cities and counties have made similar declarations as Linn County’s.
“My goal will be to make sure that we are crystal clear in what health equity is, but also why racism is identified as a public health crisis,” Carter said. “That education will happen with it internally within Linn County Public Health as well as with community partners, so I expect that to be a big piece of my job.”
To promote health equity, Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said Carter will collaborate with subject matter experts at Linn County Public Health and help the agency extend its effectiveness in promoting health equity by collaborating with community partners.
“Anne has the work experience, community knowledge and understanding of how critical it is to ensure equitable access to resources,” Dwivedi said. “She is a proven leader and has long been dedicated to community service.”
Carter’s first day in her new role was April 4.
Carter’s background includes more than two decades of experience of diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate setting.
A Yale University graduate, Carter’s first started in equity work in 2000 when she was named as the vice president of diversity for May Department Stores. She went on to hold a variety of diversity leadership roles across the retail, banking and energy sectors.
She moved back to Cedar Rapids in 2012 and joined Alliant Energy in Cedar Rapids. Most recently, she served as the company’s director of diversity and inclusion.
Her position was eliminated in March 2020, and Carter said she spent the next two years becoming involved with local social justice efforts.
She served on the board of the Advocates for Social Justice, a Cedar Rapids group that formed following the murder of Minneapolis man George Floyd, which sparked a nationwide movement. Carter also was on the team that worked with the city of Cedar Rapids to establish the city’s Citizen Review Board.
Though Carter does not have public health experience, Dwivedi said her background and her track record for building community relationships “were both significant factors in her selection.”
“Public health is an amalgam of disciplines,” he said. “It is important that we remain open to a variety of backgrounds among our team members. Bringing new ideas and skills makes us stronger.”
Carter has been involved in a number of other community organizations, including the Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving (SET) Communities Fund and Linn County Make It OK.
She also currently serves as a board member at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and Orchestra Iowa.
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