Advances in health, science and social science clearly demonstrate that the places we live, work, and play get under the skin and shape our chances for health just as surely diet and exercise, going to the doctor, and the biology we were born with. Throughout our society, socioeconomic opportunities are distributed unevenly, resulting in chronic stress concentrated along class and racial lines. Consider that differences of as much as twenty years or more in life expectancy exist between neighborhoods in the same city or region. Our ability to manage the stressors in our lives is not simply a matter of personality or character; it’s tied to our access to power, resources, support networks and opportunities.
Across California, public health departments are rising to these challenges, initiating and leading an impressive body of work to advance health equity and help build an ecosystem where everyone in California can reach their full health potential.
On May 24, 2017, in Los Angeles, CA, the second, biennial, Advancing Healthy Equity Awards: Highlighting Health Equity Practice in California Public Health Departments showcased nine of these public health departments who are taking bold action to determine how policies or practices can advance health equity in their communities; working to best understand how to facilitate full inclusion of people most impacted by these policies and practices; and lifting up power-building—growing the leadership capacity of adults and youth to advocate on their own behalf as a strategy for health for all of California to see.
Video shorts featuring the nominees—Contra Costa, Riverside, Monterey, Pasadena, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Solano and Napa public health departments—lift up how these vanguard departments are using a health equity lens to shape local practice.
The prestigious Arnold X. Perkins Award for Outstanding Health Equity Practice, named after the former Alameda County Director of Public Health visionary and health equity champion, went to Monterey County Health Department. Monterey uses a collaborative approach, improving their community’s health by incorporating health considerations into decision making internally and The Exemplary Health Equity Practice Awards went to Napa County Public Health and San Mateo County Health Systems. Napa County is the back-bone for a new private-public collaboration to frame affordable housing as the most pressing health issue in this world-famous food and wine destination community where one bedroom monthly rent exceeds $2,300. San Mateo, following a community-based strategic planning process, is developing policy and equity focused projects to advance: Healthy Housing, Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Schools, and Healthy Economy.
The Health Equity Awards pay tribute to all of these bold and innovative public health departments and it is our hope that these departments will serve as inspiration, spurring more jurisdictions to move from commitment to courageous action.
On behalf of the esteemed Awards Planning Committee and all of us at The California Endowment it is our deepest honor to showcase and reward public health departments that can inform future work and help advance a new standard of health equity practice in local health departments in California and beyond.