A Way To Move Forward When All You Feel Is Stuck

A Way To Move Forward When All You Feel Is Stuck

Posted on July 27, 2022 by Rachel Hettinger, TPF Fellow 2022/23
People like to make decisions with pros and cons lists. I like to make decisions with a cons and cons list, taking the perspective of what's the worst that could happen if I do and what's the worst that could happen if I don't. This is how I decided to be open and share my story about being stuck in a system that was not built for me. The worst that could happen if I do is people could disagree with me or write me off, but the worst that could happen if I don't is less awareness and less opportunity for people to come together on this issue. I can live with disagreements; I cannot live with missed opportunities to evolve a system that warrants change.

While at the Grantmakers In Health (GIH) conference in Miami, the opening plenary struck me when the speaker said:

"Programs are fixing people, and people have never been broken. It's our systems and our structures that are broken. We cannot program our way to change and health justice. To move forward, we have to think systemically and uproot systems and policies that are broken and replant holistic thriving systems."

This resonated with me because at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with Vulvar Vestibulitis and Vestibulodynia, a women's chronic health illness, and my vicious cycle of abuse within the women's healthcare system began. No one asks for a chronic illness, and in my case, like so many others, it can often come unexpectedly.

The result is finding yourself in a system where you can see you don't fit all the time. I went through four doctors before I found one who knew what my illness was. I did hours of research looking for a support group, but the nearest one was in Canada, so a Facebook group was the next best thing. I also searched and searched for nonprofits with information, resources, programs – anything to do with my illness – and I found less than five in the entire United States.

This system kept trying to "fix" me and throw me from doctor to doctor and from medication to medication when, no matter how much I felt like it, it was not me that was broken. The current women's healthcare system is broken. It needs to be uprooted and a holistic thriving evolving system needs to be replanted in its place.

The Patterson Foundation says there is no one program, policy, or procedure that can fix everything. We must unpack the mess and repack it in a way that works for what's most important – the people. This is at the forefront of TPF's acronym CLSES – connecting, learning, sharing, evolving, strengthening. This invites people to be a part of the solution because people are the solution.

Layering on programs or funding to what already exists may not be creating a better system. Programs could be a small part of it, but they are just one factor. The people are the biggest factor, and systems should be built for people. But the thing about people is we change, we get surprises, we grow, and our worlds are constantly evolving. Therefore shouldn't our systems also be constantly evolving and strengthening?

This is why programs cannot be the answer; they are too much like bricks set in their ways. Systems like women's healthcare need to be flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected and move with the women interacting within the system instead of around them.

To evolve from our own philanthropic foundation systems, we must ask ourselves, are we supporting programs to fix people, or are we supporting people to build better systems?

Comments (1)

  • Ploss Patricia

    Ploss Patricia

    27 July 2022 at 16:23 | #

    The insight to change the direction of helping people will open ways to address health issues and actually improve practices and commence change. Cures should be funded and found for chronic illnesses that don't kill you. They maim you and so they don't get the attention that killer illnesses do. Being informed will bring change
    Thank you for sharing part of your journey.

    reply

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