Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Issue Areas

Health Equity & Social Justice

Health is a fundamental human right. But in the U.S. and around the world, people of color, low-income communities, people with disabilities and other marginalized populations experience poorer health outcomes. Structural and systemic inequities impact health: discriminatory housing policies trap families in areas with poor air quality; gender discrimination creates barriers to educational and economic opportunity; immigration status impacts income and access to health services.

2019 ENACT Day advocates


San Diego youth advocates at ENACT Day 2019

Sabrina Suico, HIPUP, at the Trans March

The Public Health Institute (PHI) believes that in order to be a truly just society, we must ensure equitable health outcomes for everyone. For over fifty years, PHI programs have worked to improve health outcomes across populations, and our current portfolio includes proven and pioneering work in chronic disease prevention, communicable disease prevention, climate change mitigation and solutions, violence prevention, economic and social empowerment for women and youth across the globe, and more.

PHI is also committed to addressing the root causes of unequal health outcomes: the inequities baked into the multifaceted, complex structures and systems that shape our lives—education, housing, health care, food systems, and more. We have experience in researching health impacts across populations, designing successful strategies and sharing best practices in achieving health equity, but a critical step in eliminating health inequities is to make sure that people who have traditionally not been invited to the table don’t just inform and interact with policies and interventions—they guide, plan and implement them. We know that equity can’t just be an end goal; it must be embedded throughout the process: in building collaborative, authentic partnerships; in decision-making; and in how resources are generated, used and shared. That’s why we’re also working with communities, partners and funders to take a holistic approach to community health and develop new leaders in the field, so that those respected by and representative of their neighborhoods have the support they need to lead.

Organizationally, we’re also committed to looking inward, with plans to conduct regular audits in diversity, equity, and inclusion to inform and guide us as PHI continues to hire, retain, mentor and promote candidates that pull from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We are committing to building a pipeline of public health practitioners that have the capacity, networks and opportunities to lead the field of public health into a more diverse future—and one that ultimately has better and greater outcomes for those who need them most.

Our expertise includes:

  • Research and data: Our experts have conducted cutting-edge research that has helped to demonstrate health disparities and highlight the need for equitable solutions.
  • Leadership development: PHI staff can work with you to create a health equity program curriculum designed to develop and strengthen new community or organizational leadership, using best practices, new technologies and collaborative learning. We specialize in developing culturally-relevant and scalable leadership models, and have experience guiding teams in working across disciplines to advance health equity through transformational leadership.
  • Programs and policies to advance health equity: We know that quality equitable health solutions aren't simply designed to rectify health disparities—they are also community-driven, sustainable, and embed equity and collaboration throughout the process. Our staff is available to design, advocate for, and manage programs and policies that will advance equitable, community-based solutions.
  • Evaluation: PHI offers ongoing and as-needed evaluation to measure your impacts in addressing health disparities to inform program improvement, and bolster success.
  • Training and capacity building: We also offer specialized trainings and technical assistance to support your efforts in advancing health equity.



Resources and Tools

See more PHI resources on health equity & social justice.


Connie Chan Robison

Connie Chan Robison is executive director of the Center for Collaborative Planning, a training and technical assistance center at PHI. Robison prom...

View Details »

Won Kim Cook

Won Kim Cook, PhD, is an associate scientist at the Alcohol Research Group. She has a strong interest in immigrant alcohol use and other health iss...

View Details »

Amy DeLisio

Amy DeLisio, MPH, RD is the director at the Public Health Institute Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) and has over fourteen years of experien...

View Details »

Lori Dorfman

Lori Dorfman, DrPH, directs Berkeley Media Studies Group, which works with community groups, journalists and public health professionals to use the...

View Details »

Denise Raquel Dunning

Dr. Denise Raquel Dunning is the founder and Executive Director of Rise Up, which activates women and girls to transform their lives, families, and...

View Details »

Sue Grinnell

Sue Grinnell, MPH, is Director of Business Strategy and Technology at PHI's Population Health Innovation Lab (PHIL). Grinnell joins PHI wi...

View Details »

Marta Induni

Marta Induni, PhD, is the research program director of the Survey Research Group (SRG) at PHI. With more than 20 years of survey research experienc...

View Details »

Genoveva Islas

Genoveva Islas, MPH, directs Cultiva La Salud, which works to address poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the San Joaquin Valley by creating ...

View Details »

Anne Kelsey Lamb

Anne Kelsey Lamb, MPH, is the director of Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) and its principal investigator. Serving as director sinc...

View Details »

Tomás A. Magaña

Tomás A. Magaña, M.D., M.A., F.A.A.P. founded and directs the FACES for the Future Coalition, and leads national dissemination of the...

View Details »

Carmen Nevarez

Carmen Nevarez, MD, MPH, is PHI's vice president for external relations, preventive medicine advisor and director of the Center for Health...

View Details »

Linda Rudolph

Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH, is the Director of the Center for Climate Change and Health at PHI. She also provides consultation to local jurisdictions t...

View Details »

Susan Watson

Susan Watson is the Program Director for the CA4Health community of practice to advance chronic disease prevention and health equity across Califor...

View Details »


Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative
(PHI program 2002-2017)

The Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII) is a nationally recognized leader in transforming public health practice to advance hea...

View Details »

Berkeley Media Studies Group

Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) works with community groups, journalists and public health professionals to use the power of the media to advan...

View Details »

Build Healthy Places Network

The Build Healthy Places Network catalyzes and supports collaboration across the health and community development sectors, together working to impr...

View Details »


CA4Health is a community of practice consisting of people and organizations working to advance chronic disease prevention and health equity in Cali...

View Details »

California Alliance for Prevention Funding

The California Alliance for Prevention Funding is a statewide coalition working to create a sustainable funding stream for prevention and health eq...

View Details »

Center for Climate Change and Health

The Center for Climate Change and Health contributes to building healthy and climate-resilient communities that have the right tools to mitigate an...

View Details »

Center for Wellness and Nutrition

The Public Health Institute Center for Wellness and Nutrition recognizes the connections among local community environments, poor diet, physic...

View Details »

Collective Impact Partnership: Increasing the Economic Power of Girls and Women in India

Rise Up and the Public Health Institute, in partnership with the Global Fund for Women, How Women Lead and World Pulse, are leading a three-year pr...

View Details »

Cultiva La Salud/Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program

(PHI program 2011-2018) The Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) began in 2005 as a model program utilizing a policy...

View Details »

FACES for the Future Coalition

The FACES for the Future Coalition delivers the highly successful FACES program model to communities seeking to prepare high school students for en...

View Details »

Getting it Right from the Start: Regulation of Recreational Marijuana

Legalization of recreational marijuana is spreading rapidly in the US, currently reaching 11 states and the District of Columbia. State licensing o...

View Details »

GOJoven International

GOJoven International is a multi-year youth development fellowship program focused on building the capacity of young leaders and their organization...

View Details »

Health in All Policies

The Health in All Policies Task Force is a collaborative project between the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Public Health, a...

View Details »

Health Intervention Projects for Underserved Populations

Health Intervention Projects for Underserved Populations (HIPUP) aims to improve substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention and tr...

View Details »

Health Spectrum Program

Using a multi-dimensional emphasis that encompasses geographical, age, gender, socio-economic status, and race and ethnicity categories, the Health...

View Details »

Pacific ADA Center

The Pacific ADA Center works to build a partnership between the disability and business communities and to promote full and unrestricted participat...

View Details »

Public Health Alliance of Southern California

The Public Health Alliance of Southern California (Alliance) is a coalition of local health departments in Southern California. Collectively our me...

View Details »

Regional Asthma Management and Prevention Program

The Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) program is a collaborative that promotes strategies for reducing asthma through a broad and co...

View Details »

Rise Up

PHI’s Rise Up activates women and girls to transform their lives, families, and communities through investment in local solutions, strengthen...

View Details »

Roots of Change

Roots of Change (ROC) is a think tank-and-do tank working to ensure emergence of a sustainable food system in California. ROC provides road maps to...

View Details »

Here's How We're Making a Difference

Delivering on the ADA's Promise to Advance Equality for People with Disabilities

Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities. Today, PHI's Pacific ADA Center works to build partnerships between the disability and business communities and to promote full and unrestricted participation in society for persons with disabilities through education and technical assistance. 

The Center provides over 37,000 technical assistance consultations annually to public and private stakeholders in the western U.S. on ADA compliance, and has also trained thousands of public and private sector hiring managers and supervisors on disability awareness and reasonable accommodation options for disabled employees, which has increased hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities. After consulting with the Pacific ADA Center, a corporation that operates tens of thousands of chain restaurants changed its national policy so that customers with disabilities no longer encountered accessibility barriers such as narrow doorways and restricted space in dining areas. Learn more about the Pacific ADA Center


Developing Shared Guiding Principles for Equity and Justice

Developing shared guiding principles for equity and justice

PHI's CA4Health is a community of practice made up of people and organizations working to advance chronic disease prevention and health equity in California. Building off of previous networking and movement building initiatives (i.e., Community Transformation Grant, CA Convergence, and Partnership for a Healthy California), CA4Health provides backbone support for stakeholders to connect, leverage, advocate and learn together—with a focus on increasing collaboration, fostering non-traditional partnerships, and tackling tough challenges to create impactful, lasting change.

As part of their approach, CA4Health is committed to exploring how their program office and members can collectively embody our commitment to health equity. Following the PolicyLink Equity Summit in April 2018, members of the CA4Health delegation collaborated to craft a set of intentions related to equity that will keep the energy and lessons alive for our network. The first outcome from these discussions is CA4Health's Guiding Principles for Health Equity and Justice. The Principles include: People power; A right to health for all; Acknowledging systems and history of inequity; Leveraging privilege for impact; Centering community voices and community narratives; Intersectional movement building; Moving to action; and Inclusion and accessibility. See the Principles


MAPPING HEALTH DISADVANTAGES IN CALIFORNIA to guide solutions—and funding—where they’re needed most

HDI screenshotThe 2016 release of the California Healthy Places Index (HPI), developed by PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California and health departments across the state, provides census-tract level snapshots of the social determinants of health alongside measures to advance equity at a local level. The index features a user-friendly interactive mapping tool with key factors to identify populations most vulnerable to poor health outcomes, along with measures to advance equity at a local level. This accessible data can be used to more successfully target health interventions in underserved communities. The HPI also ranks census tracts statewide, and is a useful tool in prioritizing areas with high levels of social disadvantage. By quickly flagging key metrics, the goal is to help communities, policy makers and funders target limited resources and guide effective on-the-ground actions.

In 2018, grant making institutions incorporated the HPI in their selection criteria for more than $323 million in funding. Nearly 50 entities at the state, regional and local levels are using the HPI to guide state planning guidelines, carry out health needs assessments, conduct studies and trainings, prioritize investments, and more. Learn more about the tool.



PHI's FACES for the Future Coalition prepares high school students for entry into the health professions by developing pipeline programs that incorporate best practices in adolescent medicine, innovative pedagogy,and community engagement. The unique model addresses the diverse needs of young people interested in healthcare careers, and prepares students to meet the challenges of impending health workforce shortages and worsening health disparities.

Travis, FACES grad

"FACES not only made me be want to be a doctor,” said Chris Travis (pictured, left), a 2007 graduate of FACES Oakland, and a first year medical student at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, “it introduced me to people who would help me one day make that dream a reality."

Evaluations show that a full 100% of FACES students graduate high school, compared with only 40% of their peers in some communities. Nine out of 10 are accepted into post-secondary college or training, and a large number plan to go on to pursue healthcare and health-related professions. Learn more about FACES for the Future


Reducing Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Transgender Women of Color

Organized through PHI’s Health Intervention Projects for Underserved Populations (HIPUP), the Mariposa Project worked to reduce substance use and sexual risk behaviors among transgender women of color in the San Francisco Bay Area. Peer health educators worked closely with 200+ participants, providing individual Motivational Enhancement Intervention sessions. In collaboration with a local substance abuse treatment program, the project also provided referral services to the participants who expressed a need to enroll in the recovery program. A preliminary evaluation showed a 70% reduction of substance use over the three months between the intake and exit assessments. The Mariposa Project also facilitated transgender sensitivity trainings to 150 participants from 10 agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area that work with or might work with transgender clients in the future. 

Learn more about HIPUP



As California and other states consider and prepare for recreational marijuana legalization, communities and local governments are seeking science-based information on marijuana’s effects on health and populations.

In 2017, PHI's CA4Health and Dialogue4Health co-hosted a 3-part Understanding Marijuana web forum series focused on exploring the effects of marijuana on our health and how to address the long-term residual consequences of its criminalization in our communities. Over 3,000 attendees tuned in to hear attorneys, law enforcement, racial justice organizations, researchers and city officials from across the country discuss what legalization means for health and public health, and how cannabis legalization will impact and present opportunities in poor, previously incarcerated, and people of color communities.

Catch up with recordings of all 3 Understanding Marijuana web forums.


Supporting India’s next generation of leaders advancing women's empowerment

Anuradha Bhosale, a Collective Impact Leader, is working with the Avani Organization to organize waste pickers in Kolhapur, India, helping to form a national association for waste pickers, leading trainings on “going green,” and advocating for access to water and facilities in areas of residences. She and the organization also focus on keeping the children of waste pickers in school and training them in life skills and leadership.

Meet Anuradha and the other CIP leaders who are expanding their skills and advocating for women’s economic and social justice issues in India.



19 California state departments have incorporated Racial Equity Action PlansThe lives of California's residents are shaped in part by decisions at the state level. So the work of PHI's Health in All Policies (HiAP) team with the Government Alliance for Race and Equity (GARE) Capitol Cohort (a racial equity capacity building project for California's state government) holds the potential to bring greater justice and equity to each of its 39 million residents. 19 state departments—including public health, education, corrections and rehabilitation, and housing—prepared Racial Equity Action Plans, focusing on areas such as workforce development, budgeting, community engagement, results-based accountability, and program development.

"Participating in GARE provided CDPH with an opportunity to be purposeful and explicit about finding solutions to racial inequities that may be perpetuated through our institutional processes, operations and policies," said Dr. Karen Smith, Director of the California Department of Public Health.

In April of 2019, California's Strategic Growth Council (SGC) officially unanimously adopted an historic Racial Equity Action Plan, developed through their participation in the GARE Capital Cohort. The California SGC—which represents sectors including transportation, health, agriculture, housing, natural resources, and environment—is the first state cabinet-level body in the country to adopt a racial equity plan, and reflects an endorsement that is multisectoral and from the highest levels of California state government. Learn more.


Working alongside vulnerable communities to manage aNd prevent asthma

PHI's RAMP received 2019 Housing and Urban Development Secretary's Award for Healthy Homes

PHI's Regional Asthma Management & Prevention program (RAMP) works to reduce the burden of asthma with a focus on health equity, in four main focus areas: Stable and healthy housing; Healthy air for all; Health care equity; and eliminating inequities. As part of their strategy, RAMP advocates for healthy housing policies in California—helping to improve housing quality and reduce exposure to asthma triggers like pesticide use and mold, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. In recognition of this work, RAMP received the 2016 Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Award for Healthy Homes on behalf of the California Healthy Housing Coalition. The award recognizes excellence in healthy housing innovation and achievement.

RAMP is also committed to investing in innovative ways to manage and prevent asthma, including developing new models and advocating for sustainable financing for asthma services and increasing access to culturally-competent quality care—in the doctors office and at home. For example, RAMP has worked to build California's field of Community Health Workers (CHWs), who are often very successful in improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare utilization. Supporting CHWs also reflects the program's social justice focus, in that—as so many CHWs are members of the communities they serve—RAMP is building the capacity and workforce of community members.