January 6 2015


Dear Friends, Partners, and Colleagues: Happy New Year to you all.

The new year marks the midpoint of The California Endowment’s ten-year Building Healthy Communities (BHC) campaign, which began in 2010. I want to take this opportunity to update you on the goals and results framework that our Board of Directors recently approved. Simply put, this framework helps answer the question of “What does success look like?” in 2020.

Before jumping into the specifics of the 2020 goals, a few words regarding “context” and “moment” are important.

In 2009, Our Board of Directors embarked on this ten-year, one billion dollar commitment with a vision of contributing to a healthier, brighter future for young people residing in distressed and neglected California communities. These are communities where leaders, families, and youth—in primarily, but not exclusively, communities of color—struggle uphill against grim realities of poverty, discrimination, marginalization, and lack of meaningful opportunity.

A young person of color living in Boyle Heights, or Fresno, or Richmond sees a world of stark contrasts.

He or she has seen an African-American male make history by getting elected and re-elected to the White House. He or she has seen leaps in technology and social media provide real evidence that nearly anything is possible. And a roaring stock market and corporate profits demonstrate that financial success is out there – somewhere.

African-American youth have seen the events in Ferguson and Staten Island, revealing that true racial equality and justice remain too far out of reach. They know that income inequality is felt most acutely in the families around them. They also know that mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline represent a “normal” for their communities.

For too many Latino families, immigration battles, deportation, and second-class citizenship dominate their daily lives.

For many young Asian Pacific Islanders, the “model minority” narrative masks significant disparities in health and opportunity.

Less visibly, but perhaps even more painfully, is the experience of so many young Native Americans, where hopelessness and despair trumps wellness and optimism.

And cutting across each of these ethnic groups, LGBT youth are systematically marginalized across a range of institutional and civic settings.

The Building Healthy Communities campaign is about turning this narrative of injustice and pessimism on its head. We must replace hopelessness with optimism, despair with wellness, disease with health.

With all that in mind, here is a rundown of the 2020 goals and how we got here.

In 2009, we began a planning phase with a goals framework that included “Big Four Results” and 10 outcomes. After five years of listening to, learning from, and working with community leaders and stakeholders, our Board recently made a decision to replace the “Big Four Results” with a “Three Campaign Goals” framework. While much of the content of the investments and work remains consistent, there were some critically important learnings and nuances that led us in this direction.

Principally, the key lesson we learned from community leaders across the 14 BHC sites was to embrace an “assets” framework, rather than a “deficit,” or disease frame.

For example, the original Big Four Results of the early planning phase included mention of reducing childhood obesity, as well as youth violence. These results remain as relevant indicators of healthier communities for children. But we heard from community and youth leaders themselves that community residents should be viewed as assets to be mobilized, rather than problems or diseases to be fixed.

Thus, we embarked on a positively-messaged “Health Happens Here” effort, embedded through three campaign goals in (1) Prevention, (2) Schools, and (3) Neighborhoods. The reason for this is simple: young people in underserved communities spend the lion’s share of their waking hours in any given year in three places: in the neighborhood, in school, and in a health- or related system.

Now, the three goals in more detail.

Health For All (“Health Happens With Prevention”)

By the year 2020, our goal is to assure that 100 percent of Californians, including every young person, has access to affordable and quality health coverage. We include undocumented Californians in this audacious goal. In addition, we will promote a health system that is more prevention and primary-care oriented, with an improved, more diverse pipeline for the primary care workforce. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, provides our state with an excellent opportunity to make this vision a reality in the coming years. In fact, our Board has committed more than $300 million in additional funding to do so. But it will require hard work, sustained advocacy efforts, and meaningful partnerships.

Health in Every School (“Health Happens In Schools”)

By the year 2020, we want to see 100 percent of California’s schools promoting a culture of health and wellness in school settings. This means more nutritious meals, regular physical activity, access to clean drinking water, and strengthened supports for the social and emotional health of students. It also means replacing a zero tolerance-driven, school suspension culture with a climate of support, healing, and wellness for troubled children and youth in classrooms across our state.

Health in Every Neighborhood (“Health Happens in Neighborhoods”)

By the year 2020, we want to see statewide and regional policies that promote healthier opportunities for youth in 100 percent of California’s communities. This means seeing more communities that are designed to be walkable and encourage physical activity; more parks, recreational, and fitness opportunities in underserved communities; and greater access to healthy food options. In addition, and urged on by the voice and experience of community and youth leaders statewide, we want to help neighborhood leaders dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline which engulfs too many young men—and young women—of color. These community leaders expect more opportunities to support positive, healthy development of young people in underserved communities.

Now, how do we achieve these goals? We’ve identified five drivers of change.

  1. Enhancing power-building and advocacy in resident leadership;
  2. Strengthening youth leadership and organizing;
  3. Enhancing public, private, and community collaboration to work for health and prevention;
  4. Building and supporting partnerships among community stakeholders to leverage more public and private capital; and
  5. Changing the narrative of health from a disease framework to one where inclusion, equity, and prevention are valued.

We will make progress, as always, working side by side with thousands of community leaders, hundreds of activist young people, and dozens of community-based organizations—work that has resulted in the celebration of some early successes.

California has led the nation by implementing Obamacare and enrolling the uninsured, improving school meals, opening fresh food grocery stores, reducing school suspensions, and setting the tone and pace of needed reforms to support young people.

A pastor of mine once defined the word “faith” as: “do what you must do, and leave the rest up to the Lord.” So we are committed to doing what we must, and what we can—and have faith that other forces and leaders will do theirs.

The Building Healthy Communities campaign is about enhancing the ability and capacity of communities to build healthier environments for young people. While there is much to be said about the heroic American narrative where kids “beat the odds,” we are consumed, rather, with systematically “changing the odds” in their favor.

We are guided by a high-level set of priorities we refer to as the 2020 Goals. For a summary of the goals, click here.

BHC 2020 Goals


We look forward to building on this platform of early success en route to a healthier California in 2020. Many thanks for your leadership, contributions, and support of this work.

For more information about the BHC 2020 goals and results, please go to our learning & results link at www.calendow.org/learning.


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