Changes for the better are happening in the 14 Building Healthy Communities sites. Challenges remain but residents are standing up for their communities and speaking truth to power. This video highlights work in all of the 14 sites across the state.

Friends, Colleagues, and Partners of TCE:

It is with a heavy heart, and on behalf of our family here at the California Endowment, we extend thoughts and prayers to the victims and families of the horrific terrorist event in Manchester, England yesterday.

For an organization whose values and work are steeped in wellness, health, compassion, diversity, inclusion, and a sense of community, events such as these are particularly difficult for us to comprehend.  The partners and grantees we support perform the real work of healthy, inclusive communities — and while the pain of such events is immense, let the Manchester tragedy serve as a grim but powerful reminder of why we engage in the work that we do and support.

We wish for strength, peace, and blessings to the community of Manchester as they re-build and unite from this tragedy.


s-kernA major safety upgrade is coming to the community of Rexland Acres thanks to the effort of 17-year-old resident Jocelyn Cuevas.

The Golden Valley High senior, who first shed light on this issue in a commentary she wrote for South Kern Sol a year ago, was beaming with happiness Friday morning as community leaders announced a $6 million project to address flooding, build sidewalks and improve street safety in the low-income unincorporated community at the southeast edge of Bakersfield.

“Dreams do come true,” Cuevas said, getting emotional while talking about the changes coming to her neighborhood.

When it rains in Rexland Acres, entire streets flood and unpaved shoulders pool with water, forcing kids walking to Fairview Elementary into the street. Pedestrians get splashed with water as cars pass by. Sometimes the mail can’t be delivered and bills and checks go undelivered. Even in good weather, the lack of sidewalks make it difficult for people in wheelchairs of pushing strollers to navigate the dirt shoulders and uneven ground. The money, a mix of state, federal and local funds, will pay for storm drains, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, traffic stops, signage and flashing lights in front of the elementary school.

“Now the children will have safe walking paths to get to school,” said Cuevas, who has a younger sibling that attends the elementary school.

The lack of infrastructure wasn’t just a perceived danger. Over the past decade, the community saw 24 collisions between motorists and pedestrians or people on bicycles, including 3 fatalities, according to Yolanda Alcantar, the Kern County Public Works manager who worked on the application for the project. The project ranked 13th out of 456 in the state’s evaluation.

The sidewalk funding is a major achievement for a special effort underway since 2009 in South Kern, when The California Endowment launched Building Healthy Communities, a 10-year, $1 billion initiative to help 14 of the state’s most disadvantaged communities improve health and safety. The effort aims to engage local organizations, residents, especially young people, in creating change in their local community.

The Greenfield Walking Group, a partner of the initiative, was an early success that got started in 2006 when several local mothers started exercising in the local park despite the litter, stray pets, graffiti and gang members they encountered there. Eventually, they attracted more people who wanted to be active and they’ve since worked with local leaders to build walking paths, upgrade playground equipment and replace graffiti with murals in two neighborhood parks. When the walking group heard Cuevas’ idea for sidewalks, they quickly joined the effort. Those involved went door to door with their ideas, and soon hundreds of signatures, stories and even drawings by elementary students to take to local leaders.

That kind of organization made all the difference in getting an application together when funding came available, said Alcantar of the Public Works Department.

“There are many disadvantaged areas in Kern County,” she said. “We were lucky they had the community planning and a movement to make this successful. Not a lot of areas have that. It’s a really good example of how the community can make an impression.”

This originally appeared in South Kern SolClick here to read it there.


South Kern Youth Taking Action.

South Kern Youth Taking Action.


I recently attended a candidates forum hosted by the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) at the David Head Center in Lamont.

I had the opportunity to meet some of the candidates running for various local and state positions, including the boards for the Lamont and Vineland school districts, as well as the Lamont Public Utility District and the Kern High School District. Also in attendance were the candidates vying for Superior Court and Bear Mountain Parks and Recreation.


For the State Assembly, Republican candidate Manuel Ramirez attended, but Assemblymember Rudy Salas, a Democratic, sent a representative. U.S. Rep. David Valadao, a Republican, neither attended nor sent a representative. His Democratic challenger, Emilio Huerta (Dolores Huerta’s son) sent a representative.

Major electoral positions, such as those for the California Legislature, are the main attractions to these sorts of events and especially important to the communities of South Kern.

How is one expected to make an educated decision on who should represent us in Sacramento and Washington D.C., if South Kern residents rarely get an opportunity to meet the candidates and learn about where they stand on the issues the community cares about most.

I’m sure residents of South Kern would have loved to hear straight from the congressional candidates’ mouths whether or not they support the expansion of DACA or DAPA, or whether they support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. These issues are among the main concerns in South Kern because most residents either have family members who would benefit from this legislation or have someone very close to them who would.

With Ramirez and Salas running to represent the 32nd District, I would like to have heard both talk about whether or not they would support Measure J, the Bakersfield College extension in Arvin. Also, would they commit to seeking resources and funding to improve the quality of drinking water? South Kern has always had to fight to get clean drinking water. We want someone in Sacramento who will fight with us and for us to improve this once and for all.

While the candidates did send representatives, that is not the same as having the actual candidate in front of us. When state lawmakers take time out of their day to visit their constituents, it sends a message to the community that they are important and that their issues matter.

Many of the residents who attended were older Hispanic people, and many don’t have access to the internet or social media to search for information on candidates. That’s why it is crucial that candidates show up to these meetings and forums.

Most of the candidates who were sitting on the panel are very active in the community and are easily reached. Residents will run into them everywhere they go. This makes it easier to talk to them about issues they want fixed or looked into. Representatives from Congress and the Assembly are harder to contact because they spend a majority of their time in Sacramento.

Among the big-ticket campaigns at the forum was the race for Kern High School District. Both candidates – Jennifer Bloomquist and Joey O’Connell – were read a series of questions and asked to answer by holding up a sign with Yes, No – or a question mark. Given the recent controversy over transgender bathrooms in schools and the remarks made by Chad Vegas, who said transgender students are mentally ill, this was one of the most long-awaited questions.

Both candidates were asked, “Do you support cultural competency training for staff and teachers regarding sex education, the LGBTQ Community and other racial and ethnic minorities?”

Bloomquist held up the Yes card, while O’Connell held up the question mark. After the forum, I asked each of them to elaborate. Bloomquist stated, “Our own trustee should not be referring to the students they represent as mentally ill. It is not only incredibly important that we support LGBTQ students but all students in the Kern High School District.”

Asked why he raised the question mark, O’Connell replied, “I’m not sure yet. I need to understand both sides. I don’t want to take a side if I don’t fully understand the issue.”

Candidate Forums are very important in the democratic process. They show voters that candidates are willing to hear their concerns and willing to take action on them.

After the forum, I asked Lamont resident Desiree Gomez what she thought about the forum. “It was great. You can really tell that the candidates that showed up to this are really passionate about the position they are running for,” she said. “I love attending these sorts of events because they allow me to get to the know the candidates and what ideas they represent. It helps me make my decision come election day.”

south-kern-vota-blogEd Note: The following letter was read on June 30 during the kick-off of South Kern Sol’s Youth Summer Series, outside of the Mesa Verde Detention Center. South Kern Sol held three events throughout the summer aimed at shining a light on issues impacting youth throughout Kern County.


It is with sadness that I share the circumstances that are guiding our community to an uncertain future. Youth advocates are fighting for social change in Kern County. Los jóvenes en nuestra comunidad son el futuro de un Condado de Kern saludable, justo y lleno de posibilidades. Nosotros exigimos justicia.

In Kern County we have problems with immigration, juvenile justice, investment in school, and low voter turnout. En el Condado de Kern hay problemas con la inmigración, el sistema de justicia juvenil, la inversión en las escuelas y un bajo porcentaje de votantes. Millones de dólares se invierten en la detención de inmigrantes en Mesa Verde. Millones se invierten en prisiones juveniles más de lo que se invierte en el presupuesto de los distritos escolares de McFarland y Arvin. It isn’t fair to spend millions of dollars detaining immigrants or on youth prisons when marginalized communities such as McFarland and Arvin are in great need.

Today I stand here representing all the youth of Kern to petition the heads of Kern County to reimagine access to schools for young people. I stand here representing the thousands of families who have been separated by immigration detention throughout my community. I stand here representing all of the human beings who are part of this community and who for various reason are not able to vote. I stand here because I need to amplify the importance of voting and to call on other young people to take advantage of this powerful right.

Hoy estoy aquí representando a todos los residentes de Kern para peticionar a los funcionarios del condado a reimaginar el acceso a la escuela para los jóvenes. Estoy aquí para representar a  las miles de familias que han sido separadas por la detención migratoria a lo largo de mi comunidad. Estoy aquí para representar a todos aquellos seres humanos que forman parte de esta comunidad y que por diversas razones no son capaces de votar. Estoy aquí porque tengo la necesidad de amplificar la importancia de votar a otros jóvenes y dejar en claro la importancia de tan poderoso derecho.

Mucho de nuestro dinero se gasta en servicios que nuestra comunidad no necesita. Un gran problema con el sistema de justicia de menores, por la cantidad de dinero que el condado de Kern invierte encarcelando a 300 jóvenes, mejor podría contratar a un terapeuta personal para cada joven y todavía sobraría dinero.Kern County spends more money putting youth in prison each year than on recreational services, cultural services, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation services combined.

It’s disappointing to know that there are more people incarcerated than students attending Bakersfield College. If Kern County were to help, it could instead pay tuitions for every single student at BC yearly.Es decepcionante saber que hay más gente encarcelada que estudiantes en el Colegio de Bakersfield. But in order to change things, we need to VOTE!

Youth erect VOTA sign to encourage more Californians to vote.
Youth erect VOTA sign to encourage more Californians to vote.

We have another problem in this county. Only 8 percent of eligible Kern County voters from ages 18-24 turned out to the polls in the 2014 election. En este condado tenemos otro problema. Solo el 8 por ciento de jóvenes elegibles para votar decidieron hacerlo en la elección del 2014. Esto no puede ser.

The election is less than 80 days away, youth who are able to vote need to do so. Este año otra elección llegará, este año es importante que los jóvenes que pueden votar lo hagan. VOTA! Ustedes son la voz de sus comunidades, ustedes pueden exigir cambios. Youth that are eligible to vote– be the voice of our communities, you can demand changes.

For those Kern residents who are not able to vote, I encourage you to take action in your communities to get loud about what matters to you and to those who live in the shadows, in fear of being deported.

Para aquellos residentes que no pueden votar, yo los animo a que sean parte de sus comunidades y alzen su voz, revelen sus preocupaciones y aquellas que les pertenecen a las personas que viven debajo de las sombras, atemorizados en ser deportados.

Yo creo en el poder del voto democrático. As I grow older in this country I understand the importance of voting and having your voice heard.

Yo no puedo votar, I am not able to vote, for certain reasons and I wish I could.

Quisiera hacer la diferencia en mi comunidad y representar a aquellos que no pueden. I wish I could make a difference and be able to contribute to this nation. Not being able to concerns me since I don’t know if those who vote are actually speaking up for what I need and for what my community needs. However, being denied the vote motivates me to share what in happening in my community with those who can make a change.

Various things are happening in our county that not many people know. Nuestro dinero es el que se está gastando en servicios que lo único que hacen es afectar a nuestro condado. It is time to be revolutionary and start fighting for justice. Es la hora de luchar por justicia y poco a poquito cambiar las leyes que no nos ayudan en nada. Unámonos sin miedo y con la frente en alto. Because at the end of everything we are all human beings, we all have human rights, whether we speak English or hablemos Español, todos somos seres humanos con derechos sin importar la nacionalidad, sexualidad, religión, cultura, creencias o estatus migratorio.

Todos tenemos que unirnos y luchar por lo que es justo. Animemos a aquellos que pueden votar e involucrémonos en nuestra comunidad. Uno hace la diferencia.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty website.  The Urban Institute, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is supporting the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. Chaired by David Ellwood, the Mobility Partnership consists of 24 leading voices representing academia, practice, the faith community, philanthropy, and the private sector, including our very own Dr. Anthony Iton.  To learn more about the project, visit the website:


Seeing great community organizers at work changed the way I think about health.

From 2000 to 2003, I was director of health and human services for Stamford, Connecticut in Fairfield County, one of the most unequal places in America. While hedge fund managers help give Fairfield one of the higher median household incomes in the country, nearly one-fifth of its African-American and Hispanic residents live in poverty. Some of the health disparities are just as stark. During my time in Connecticut, state-wide, the mortality rate for black women was 20 percent higher than the rate for white women, which equated to a nearly five-year life expectancy gap.

These were the types of statistics I had at my disposal when I was asked to speak at a local meeting of the AFL-CIO labor federation about some of the health needs of people with low-income in our area. Traditional labor organizing is hierarchical, male, and laser-focused on benefits and pay. But, like the service sector more broadly, AFL-CIO’s members were increasingly female, black, and Latino. They were concerned not just about their jobs but about their children and the state of their communities. So the federation set up shops to teach labor leaders the skills of community organizers.

I had numbers in my head and notes in hand, but within minutes I saw that if there were a single picture of public health in Stamford—its gaps and its potential—you could take it in that room. Many there that night earned low wages. Some were non-native English speakers. Some were undocumented. They talked about the havoc that overnight shifts cleaning offices wreaked on their family lives and sleep, the neighborhood conditions their kids were exposed to, poor access to food, and the stress of trying to pay the bills.

Here I was health director laboring under the assumption that public health was about good data and reports. Both are necessary, but they’re not sufficient.

In low-income communities, every system is on life support. Residents have difficulty finding work, good schools, adequate transportation. Stress incubates in these places where people feel they have no opportunities, and it manifests in poor health. My sense is that the way poverty kills you is through a lack of control. Many in poor communities feel they have no power over what will happen next month, next week, or even in the next minute. This lack of control creates hopelessness, and that hopelessness is deadly. So if organizing cultivated hope, it seemed plausible to me that it could literally save, or at least lengthen, these women’s lives.

As a medical doctor and former city health director, I’d been thinking about all of this for some time when I arrived at The California Endowment. But it wasn’t clear to me how to act on it until I met community organizers like Nicole Lee. Lee is executive director of Urban Peace Movement (UPM) and a proponent of what she calls “healing-centered youth organizing.” Through UPM, young people in neglected communities work simultaneously on what Lee describes as inner and outer forces. The outer force is oppression, deep social and economic inequalities that produce violence. The inner forces are the pain and turmoil that oppression creates. Participants are given space where they can be heard, validate each other’s experiences, and heal, along with leadership roles in campaigns on issues like juvenile justice reform and local economic development that can improve external conditions. Youth who were written off find their voice.

The lessons I and others at The Endowment learned from community organizers informed Building Healthy Communities, a 10-year, $1 billion effort to measurably improve health status in 14 low-income California communities by focusing on the social determinants of health. A prime example is our Fresno site. When young people in South Fresno learned that kids in wealthy North Fresno enjoyed on average four and a half times more park space per acre, they created an ad campaign pointing out the gap. When the city refused to allow the ads on public buses, citing a prohibition against political messaging, media picked up the story. Fresno Building Healthy Communities has used the attention to push for an equitable and long-overdue update to Fresno’s park master plan. That battle is ongoing, but they’ve already won concessions, including an increase in the amount of green space on school grounds.

Increased access to parks and recreation will support greater health in South Fresno, but what may do even more for residents’ quality of life, stress levels, and physical well-being is knowing that they have agency, that they can exert control over their lives and the external forces that shape them, that they can be effective in supporting each other.

Money can do a lot to alleviate poverty, but I’m part of a billion-dollar bet that says a redistribution of power can do even more.


The California Health Report – Coachella Valley: Structural Racism and the Desert Healthcare District

Photo of trailer in Coachella Valley by Suzanne Potter.
Photo of trailer in Coachella Valley by Suzanne Potter.
…The nearly 70 year-old boundaries have also deepened a divisive east-west separation in Coachella Valley. The district largely covers the western valley, including wealthy communities like Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. East Coachella Valley lies outside its service boundaries, and is home to the vast majority of valley Latinos who often live in crushing poverty while working in the agricultural and service sectors – often for their white counterparts. In 2010, there was only one primary care physician per every 8,400 residents in the East Coachella Valley…

Click here to read article

Click here to learn about the Eastern Coachella Valley Building Healthy Communities site.

Merced Sun-Star – City leaders debate funding Merced Youth Council

Youth Council Rally 2 resized

…But Building Healthy Communities wants the City Council to give $75,000 to the Youth Council for training and events. Mayor Stan Thurston, who is in the final year of his role, has made increased funding for the group his top priority during his remaining time in office…

Click here to read article

Click here to learn more about Merced Building Healthy Communities.

You finally make your way past the crowd outside and in through the front doors only to realize that there is a tightly packed crowd in the lobby and your wait is far from over. No one is being checked in because capacity has been met. Your legs are making the case for you to find a chair but it’s a lost cause. There are no more seats available inside the viewing area. So, you wait…

You’re not waiting in line with the hope to see a new pop culture artist that has been all the hype. You’re not waiting in line to experience the joys of a theme park ride. No one is going to be walking back out through those front doors holding up a newly released iphone. You’re waiting in line for a seat inside Sacramento City Council’s Chambers with the hopes of listening to Sacramento’s discussion on if and how to raise our minimum wage.

This week I found myself waiting in that very line, patiently waiting for my opportunity to listen to my fellow Sacramentans voice their concerns about our economy and ultimately our community. Those to my left and those to my right were not onlookers waiting to hear what City Council members decided would be best for them. They were and continue to be change agents who have determined that their perspective and presence matter. And they will have a seat at the table even though the chambers are filled to capacity, the waiting room is full, and it’s standing room only in the lobby.

Sacramentans advocating for minimum wage hike on their way to City Hall.
Sacramentans advocating for minimum wage hike on their way to City Hall.

At first glance, you would think that this was a culmination of a hearing that was years in the making. It was not. This was the result of a power structure that knew it had to cede to the demands of the people in order for the power structure to truly fulfill its mission and purpose. It was the result of great organizing and good listening.

I was reminded about a great number of things that evening, like how where you live determines how long you live. The fact that your zip code is a better predictor of your life expectancy than your genetic code.

How your neighborhood shapes your health has increasingly become the focal point for researchers, policy analysts, news outlets, organizers, and politicians. The differences in life expectancy between zip codes illustrates how unequal America continues to be. For health advocates, zip code life expectancy differences help inform us about how much place matters. Where you live often helps determine your access to clean water, fresh produce, parks, recreational areas, hospitals, clinics, and arguably the most important…the quality of your schools.

So, with this information more readily available, why don’t people living in zip codes with less to offer opt to move into zip codes that seem to offer a better quality of life and, undoubtedly, a better opportunity to live a longer life? It’s almost always the economy! The mobility of families relies heavily on if they can afford to move.  There are probably a great number of parents who would do their best to move their kids to areas that provide them better opportunities to fulfill their dreams. But, who’s to say that this would be their preference? There are probably an even greater number of families who’d like to live where they are and instead see their own communities revitalized.

But, I’d be fooling myself to think that I could help my fellow Sacramentans bring a grocery store to one of our food deserts and help reduce food insecurity and improve the quality of food consumed. It’s almost always the economy! Food is expensive and proximity to produce, when you’re living check to check, only means that you’ll have a better chance of seeing produce not a better chance of actually eating it. Now, what are the benefits of a park when teens are forced to work at Taco Bell to help pay for rent. And, even the best teacher can only do so much when their students have to juggle classwork with a 30 hour work week. Health justice is inextricably bound to the economic justice for our most marginalized Californians. So, when they muster up the courage to directly address their needs, we must be courageous enough to stand behind them and let them know that we support their effort toward creating a healthier household and a healthier California. Now, back to the hearing…

Sacramentans advocating for minimum wage hike inside City Hall.
Sacramentans advocating for minimum wage hike inside City Hall.

After over an hour wait, I managed to sneak into the City Council Chambers. I stood in the back of the chamber and was able to listen directly to the second half of the meeting. I saw the dignified, low paid Sacramento workforce take their stand. Women went to the podium and testified. They explained how hard it is to try to support a family. A few talked about the difficulty of trying to position them for economic upward mobility when time, as a single parent, is so limited and the cost of going back to college is unaffordable.

They spoke candidly about their desire to be a part of the workforce but their reality of needing to rely on public assistance. Men also made themselves vulnerable with confessions about how hard it is to be a father when you work two jobs and the constant temptation of finding other means to support your family. Their allies took to the podium with unflinching support and selflessness. They expressed their understanding that the cost of certain items may go up but ultimately yearned for a Sacramento that can grow together.

In the end, City Council members arrived at the understanding that Sacramento’s minimum wage was too low and inaction was not an option. They decided to not wait on the state but move forward as a city and raise the minimum wage! Power to the people because when we ALL are willing to be as brave and bold as the people who filled the Council Chambers to standing room only, we will not only find ourselves leading a movement toward health justice, we will also find ourselves surrounded by one.




Monterey County Weekly – County Board of Supervisors embraces plan to incorporate racial equity into governing


…Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a half-day training on governing with racial equity, to be scheduled early next year. The five supervisors and county department heads will spend a half-day in a training similar to what Salinas community members and city staffers did about a year ago, led by the National Compadres Network and Race Forward (The Center for Racial Justice Innovation)…

Click here to read article

Click here to learn about East Salinas Building Healthy Communities

Sac Voices

Dr. Andres Sciolla, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, UC Davis, will discuss how toxic stress in childhood is responsible for social disadvantages across generational lines.

No need to RSVP and attendance is free!

Questions? Call (916) 225-9284.


In 2006, Jerry Brown was Mayor of Oakland, Arnold Schwarzenegger was Governor of California, and grassroots politics in Oakland was losing its voice. Local communities felt locked out of City Hall, their voices not being heard. From this landscape came Oakland Rising (OR).

Leadership from four local organizations; Causa Justa/ Just Cause (CJJC), Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), came together to answer the question, “How can local voters influence the decision makers to move policies that improve the lives of Oaklanders?” Oakland Rising set out to provide the political strategy and organizing expertise to support other organizing efforts and galvanize the voting base.

Oakland Rising’s mission is to educate and mobilize voters in the flatlands to speak up for and take charge of the issues impacting our lives. The organization’s work is focused on aligning organizations, building a permanent political infrastructure, and exercising political influence.

The organizing model relies on relationship building, trust, and care for each other as organizations. In this model, organizations “…have a growing curve,” said  Interim Executive Director Jessamyn Sabbag.

Oakland Rising staff and volunteers
Oakland Rising staff and volunteers

Oakland Rising launched its first campaign in 2009. Using phone banking and door-to- door canvassing,  its outreach workers conducted surveys and provided information to residents about upcoming ballot measures. They connected with over 1,300 Oakland residents and organized dozens of volunteers to join the work.

By 2010, Oakland Rising had reached 18,000 Oaklanders. Sabbag, then field director, led this exponential growth. She said  an increase in staff (paid and volunteer) and an infusion of technology to streamline phone banking were behind the success of 2010. Oakland Rising hires Oakland residents from the areas that they serve so the outreach work looks more like neighbors talking to neighbors. It prioritizes hiring multigenerational and formerly- incarcerated outreach workers.

In 2014, the organization set its sights on two local Measures: DD and FF. Measure DD established an independent redistricting commission that would be made up of Oakland residents who would draw the city voting district lines, instead of politicians drawing the lines.  Measure FF increased the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour.

With a strong campaign and diverse coalition, Oakland Rising played a major part in the passage of both measures. It reached over 24,000 residents and has over 20 percent of Oakland voters in its database.

Today, the organization  is helping non-violent felons take advantage of Proposition 47 which can reclassify felonies as misdemeanors.  They have two years for the process; Oakland Rising is getting this information out to the community.

Proposition 30, passed in 2012,  initiated a sales and income tax increase that included a 1 percent tax increase on all incomes over $250,000. These tax dollars funded schools across the state. The tax sunsets in 2016; Oakland Rising  is working to get it renewed.

Oakland Rising’s model of place- based, local organizing is getting attention. Sabbag said that plans are in the works for a regional, Bay Area Rising organization.

Thinking about the recent organizing by Black Lives Matter, I asked Sabbag how the BLM movement has impacted Oakland Rising’s work.

“A political interruption by BLM has been able to shift the conversation to the left and acknowledge BLM,” she said. “We are looking to partner with BLM to increase the pressure on policy makers to address the issues of police brutality and racism. Forty-six percent of Oakland Rising’s voter base is Black. BLM on the ground has awakened voters, allowing us to be more bold. Voting and electoral organizing is one way to stand up for our rights.”

For more information about Oakland Rising, visit the website (link: or email the organization at info@

This originally appeared in Oakland Voices, a citizen journalist project funded by The California Endowment.

Boyle Heights Beat – “We Are Alive When We Speak for Justice”: Young authors share experiences, change the conversation about their community


…In “We Are Alive When We Speak for Justice,” 57 students from Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School explore a piece of history often overlooked: Mendez v. Westminster, the case that led to the desegregation of California schools and was a precursor to Brown v. Board of Education, which followed nine years later. In the anthology, the young authors delve into firsthand experiences with a variety of discriminations and prejudices, and express a desire to change the conversation about their community, Boyle Heights…

Click here to read article

Health happens in communities.

Many people living in low-income communities in the United States are mired in a constant and unremitting fog of stress. This chronic stress is driven by housing insecurity, food insecurity, fear of crime, unemployment, exposure to pollution, and poor education. These things lead to poor community health and are often collectively conceptualized as social determinants of health.

The good news is that this situation is largely manmade and thus can be unmade. Our initiative, Building Healthy Communities (BHC), is a holistic attempt to help reweave the fraying fabric of low-income communities by harnessing the latent power and potential of their residents. Launched in 2010, it is a 10-year, $1 billion, place-based initiative that aims to transform 14 communities by building power (social, political, and economic), implementing proven health-protective policy, and changing the narrative about what produces health (beyond health insurance and individual behavior). BHC’s strategy is grounded in the belief that health is fundamentally political. The idea is to revitalize local democracy to transform these environments into places where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

The BHC model envisions these communities as proving grounds for community-driven policy and practice innovations that, in turn, advance statewide policy and systems change. It creates unprecedented space for community organizing, leadership development, and sustained multi-sector collaboration by enabling residents, community groups, and institutional leaders to work together across all sorts of boundaries, including different races and ethnicities, personal experiences, legacies of discriminatory treatment, and differential levels of power.

Click here to continue reading this article in its entirety on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website.

Sacramento, Calif., (June 25, 2015) – The California Endowment applauds the Supreme Court of United States for its ruling upholding federal subsidies under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Dr. Robert K. Ross, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of The California Endowment, released the following statement:

“The Supreme Court ruled yet again for Obamacare. It’s time to stop fighting this law and start enrolling more Americans. ‘Obamacare Lives’ means that the right of all Americans to stay healthy is preserved. Millions of people nationwide and in California have gained the security of health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, driving down the uninsured rate to a record low.

“The growth in health care costs has slowed, hospital emergency rooms are treating fewer uninsured patients, the days of being denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition are over, and critical preventive services are now offered for free. The California Endowment will continue to play a role in ensuring that this critical health care law reaches as many Californians as possible. That means we will also continue to help find coverage solutions for undocumented Californians locked out of access to care.”


About The California Endowment

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental affordable improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. Through its ‘Health Happens Here’ campaign and ten-year initiative for Building Healthy Communities, The Endowment is creating places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. At its core, The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. For more information, visit The California Endowment’s homepage at



CONTACT: Carragh Taylor-Hunt at (916) 278-4827,

The world’s largest and most influential conference dedicated to combating childhood obesity, the 8th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference, Collective Impact: Developing a Shared Vision to Achieve Greater Success, will be held June 29-July 2, 2015, in San Diego, California, at the Town and Country Hotel.

“The effort to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic has expanded exponentially during the past few years, and we are beginning to see some of the positive outcomes from these efforts,” says Patricia Crawford, Ph.D., senior director of research and UC Cooperative Extension specialist, Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The Childhood Obesity Conference brings together world renowned experts, researchers, health professionals, advocates, and school and community stakeholders to share findings and strategies in obesity prevention.”

The country’s preeminent experts on children’s health will be presenting the most current thinking on a variety of newsworthy topics such as the strategies for protecting children from food industry marketing tactics, how health care reform presents new opportunities to leverage prevention partners to address childhood obesity, emerging research linking the relationship between stress, brain function and food choices, and recent California successes to pass local beverage tax and warning label messaging on sugary sweetened beverages as a public health strategy to reduce childhood obesity and diabetes.

Some of our featured speakers include:

Keynotes and featured speakers information can be found here, and session descriptions can be found here. For the entire conference program, please click here.

For press credentials, please contact Carragh Taylor-Hunt at (916) 278-4827 or email her at

The conference is hosted by the California Department of Public Health, the California Department of Education, the California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente and UC ANR’s Nutrition Policy Institute.


LOS ANGELES (June 22, 2015)—Leaders from the health sector in Los Angeles will assemble at the headquarters of the nation’s largest health foundation for a press conference on the release of “Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health.” The study will be published by the world’s leading medical journal, The Lancet, on June 22. This release updates and continues the research started in the landmark 2009 Lancet Commission report, “Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change.”

WHAT: Local public health, community, and environmental leaders will provide local-context statements for the press on the top findings of the “Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change” report.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 23, 10:00 a.m. PT

WHERE: Courtyard at The California Endowment, 1000 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles. Media may park on Bauchet Street (see attached instructions).

GREAT VISUALS: Following the press conference, there will be a patient/physician discussion of the anticipated public health effects of heat waves featuring experts from the UCLA School of Public Health, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and community members organized by Communities for a Better Environment.

OTHER: The study is being simultaneously released by The White House in Washington as well as in London, New York City, Beijing, and Los Angeles. Images from national and international releases can be edited into California coverage.


Media Contact: Kevin Madden, Climate Resolve, 213-346-3200 x303


We’Ced: In Solidarity with #One Healthy Fresno: Bus Ads are Not Too Political

FresnoPark cartoon resized for news

…Early this year, the City of Fresno announced its $5.8 million plan to renovate city parks during the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Building Healthy Communities Fresno had simultaneously begun an advocacy campaign around reducing the disparity in access to public green spaces between north Fresno and south Fresno, the former being more and more known as the affluent side of town while the latter being an area with highly concentrated poverty. A Fresno FAX bus advertisement, commissioned by BHC Fresno, that depicts the difference in green spaces between the two parts of the city through public information, has been rejected by Mayor Ashley Swearengin as ‘political’ and in violation of city codes for bus ads.  We’Ced youth reporters reflect on the issue occurring in our neighboring city and question the validity of Mayor Swearengin’s decision…

Click here to read article

Finally, California has a ‘Health for All Kids’ state budget.  All kids will be eligible for Medi-Cal regardless of their immigration status.

Meanwhile, states like Florida are still refusing to accept Obamacare’s offer to cover uninsured residents there, even those who meet all of the legal requirements of citizenship.  Not long ago, adults in that same category in need of coverage here in California were similarly shut out. And undocumented Californians of all ages were deliberately denied access to the all-important benefits of basic preventive care.

But in today’s California, that is all changing right before our eyes.

From the start, our state saw Obamacare for the long-awaited chance it is and led the nation in putting it to work. And we didn’t stop there. We are also taking on the single biggest shortcoming in the new federal law — its exclusion from health coverage of those still waiting for Washington to offer them a path to legal status.

This week’s budget agreement by legislative leaders and Governor Brown will allow children access to the preventive health benefits of Medi-Cal regardless of their immigration status.  State Senator Ricardo Lara put the idea on the table and pushed it through. He wants the same equitable treatment for adults too and has made it clear he will keep fighting for that in the Capitol.

Local leaders continue to wage the same fight in counties across the state, including an important step forward for Sacramento County on the same day the governor agreed to coverage for all kids. And this week’s state budget win for kids will require a lot of work and commitment from all of us to implement, in the Capitol, in the media, and on the ground.

But we wouldn’t have had the chance if not for the courage and optimism of the many undocumented youth who stepped up and in to the media spotlight to tell their stories and those of their families. With the support of local and statewide organizers and advocates, they changed the narrative about what it means to be Californian.

And by doing so, they are reigniting what California is meant to be: a beacon to the nation of health and justice for all.

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South Kern Sol: Live the Challenge Ends With Most Successful Run Yet

South Kern residents prep for 5k and 10k runs.
South Kern residents prep for 5k and 10k runs.
…South Kern residents committed to make healthy lifestyle changes which include giving up soda, quitting smoking, drinking more water, eating less carbohydrates, and others pledged to keep their community clean by picking up trash, said Angelica Munoz who coordinated the event. “The first year we had 500 [pledges], the second year our youth went out and got about 700, year after 300… last year we didn’t have as many, about two hundred something,” continued Wood-Slayton. “For this year, at last count we were at over 1,100…

Click here to read article


Boyle Heights Beat: Students, parents rally for more school funding for low-income communities


…At the core of the issues were the funding of vital services such as mental health facilities on campus along with wellness centers, and to promote restorative justice in place of suspension as a form of school discipline. “Minorities are suspended at a much higher rate than any other group in the LAUSD,” said Valdez. He also said that because of the challenged backgrounds faced by eastside residents such as growing up in a low-income area, crime and immigrant status, students would benefit greatly from mental health and wellness centers on school campuses…

Click here to read article

Growing up as a young gender variant child in a city that I feel  represents America more than any other city was difficult because it was filled with hard working, honest, courageous, yet uneducated people when it comes to gender variant children.

The town I grew up in was 98% Hispanic. With that comes great prejudice because our culture is closely tied with our religion. So being transgender was not an option in my family’s choices. At first they said I just had too many brothers and they rubbed off on me. Then they said “Oh, she’s just a tomboy.”

But finally they ran out of excuses and said nothing. So when I graduated high school and knew I was ready to transition I came out to my family as transgender. This explained so many things I did as a child that they had no other choice but to accept it. It was tough for them at the beginning, but they opened their minds up and now they understand and love everyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

It wasn’t always easy for me as a kid growing up in a place where gender norms had to be followed in strict ways. Variation from the norm was not an option. But there is change coming during these next generations. I hope when I have children they will live in an accepting society with pride of who they are, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.