Exploring the connectedness of health in our communities and imagining a better future
Sept. 27, 2022 | Issue #28
This quarter marks my last
at Blue Shield of California Foundation. I could not be prouder of the $11 million in grants we are announcing
. My time at the Foundation has been marked by shifts — shifts in strategy, processes, and people. We shifted from deep investments in the health care and domestic violence safety nets to deep investments in prevention, unapologetically focused on the root causes of racial, gender, and economic inequities. We shifted from funding in the short term to funding the long game. We added capabilities to our team so that we could be of most utility to the communities we care about. The Foundation is now on a course to impact. We’re not there yet, but I am so honored and privileged to be part of the journey.
Please consider forwarding this edition
to a colleague or friend.
||Carolyn Wang Kong
Chief Program Director
For some communities, health equity means housing
The term “health equity” brings to mind disparities in outcomes, access to health care, language and cultural competence of providers and systems — all affect the health of communities. But health equity also includes racial and gender equity, food security and nutrition, access to parks, climate change, community safety, and the quality, cost, and availability of housing.
Communities across California, and the country, are tackling the health equity issues most pressing to them, partnering with government, health, and other systems to make progress.
We are proud to support the growth of BUILD (Bold Upstream Integrated Local Data-Driven) Health Challenge, a national organization that has facilitated 55 local collaborations so far to create equitable change that lasts. Two California communities have zeroed in on housing as the most critical problem to solve.
“BUILD aims to support cross-sector and community-driven partnerships, strengthen trust in public health, and foster the adoption of sustainable policies and practices that champion public health at the community level,” said Executive Director Emily Yu.
BUILD Vallejo knows that without housing, families cannot focus on health. The project has accomplished eviction moratoriums and is now developing a community land trust to ensure affordable housing in a rapidly changing, diverse community that includes immigrants and people with low incomes. (Find their latest report here.)
For BUILD Oakland, housing is central to its goal of reducing asthma disparities in the Havenscourt neighborhood. That project has improved the quality of housing and reduced hazards that exacerbate asthma, especially for young people. Milwaukee, West Philadelphia, New York City and several other communities across the country are working on asthma prevention through BUILD projects and other partnerships.
These community-driven efforts improve health, develop local leaders, strengthen public health departments, and often lead to policy change at the local, state, and federal levels.
Californians experience violence differently
The words Californians use to describe experiences of violence vary significantly by gender, as shown in the latest CalVEX study from our partners at the Center on Gender Equity and Health. The report also explores how experiences of violence vary by factors including race, financial status, and disability. CalVEX is the nation’s only multiyear, statewide assessment of violence experiences, and tells a much different story than crime statistics and even health system data can.
“These findings can help guide violence prevention and service programs and policies for the state,” the authors write, “but also offer insight into the role of economic and welfare policies in addressing violence to better meet the needs of those affected by violence, and support post-pandemic rebuilding.”
How investing in Latina leadership can uplift us all
“Latinas first” is a slogan offered by Jean Guerrero in her recent Los Angeles Times column. And what she means by this is that when Latinas lead, whole communities thrive. She cites a new report from the USC Equity Research Institute in partnership with Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), a nonprofit for Latina empowerment.
Manuel Pastor, a coauthor of the report, tells Guerrero that Latina leaders tend to advocate for the greater good because they are more likely to have had “a lived experience of being working class, of experiencing economic hardship, of seeing exclusion.”
This is not the first time we have heard this during this Latinx Heritage Month. The Latino Community Foundation event, El Poder Latino: An Economic Renaissance, was filled with creativity, culture, entrepreneurs, real stories, and many Latino leaders — and the same message: that when Latinos succeed, we all succeed.
Our own Latina leader at the Foundation, Senior Program Officer Lucia Corral Peña, has seen many examples of this throughout her life and work.
"Commitment to community and social justice is a characteristic of many Latina leaders I grew up with, especially those with lived experience of being working class, of experiencing economic hardship, being discriminated against and excluded," she said. "Many have also experienced opportunities through organizations such as Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Vision y Compromiso, East Los Angeles Women's Center and strategic philanthropic organizations like Latino Community Foundation and Hispanics In Philanthropy. These organizations understand that Latina leaders must be engaged at all levels and in ways that make systems changes that benefit all children, families and communities, but especially the most vulnerable. It is heart work and strategic work."
Centering the lived experience for domestic violence prevention
Reimagine Lab was a unique collaboration to uncover new ways to prevent domestic violence. It created a space for 16 fellows, inside and outside the domestic violence field, to collaborate on solutions. Some of Reimagine Lab’s leaders and the Foundation recently brought its results to life at the 2022 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conference in St. Louis.
“Reimagine Lab fellows share a commitment to ensuring that solutions are deeply rooted in the lived experiences,” said Foundation Senior Program Officer Lucia Corral Peña. The fellows applied human-centered design, a problem-solving approach, to understand human behavior and develop solutions for those directly impacted by domestic violence.
Fellow Sandra Henriquez, CEO of Valor, explained that by engaging community inﬂuencers, “prevention work can belong to everyone, not just an elite group of experts working in the domestic violence ﬁeld.” Sonya Young Aadam, CEO of California Black Women’s Health Project, another Reimagine Lab fellow, presented “Anti-Violence Ventures.” She said that the Black community acknowledges Anti-Violence Ventures (AVV) as “effectively meeting its emotional health needs.”
The audience had an opportunity to use a human-centered collaboration tool, as well. It’s part of the presentation video and other materials here.
This month at Blue Shield of California Foundation