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PHI Fellows Advance Health Equity in Santa Clara County

Highlights

Hand reaching for an artichoke

From 2020-2021, fellows from PHI’s Public Health Professional Development and Management Program helped to build the capacity of community-serving organizations in Santa Clara County, focusing on equity issues such as food, chronic health conditions and housing.

Fellows from PHI’s Public Health Professional Development and Management Program provide critical staffing and support for community-serving organizations to increase health equity in at-risk neighborhoods.

Previously, fellows were placed internally at The Health Trust and during 2020 – 2021, three of four fellows were stationed with community partner agencies where they helped strengthen the capacity of these agencies to advance health equity and created a stronger ripple effect for positive change on the ground. Much of the day-to-day support for the fellows and community-serving organizations was provided by The Health Trust.

The fellows built  the capacity of community organizations to further health equity efforts in Santa Clara County,  addressing food insecurity, chronic health conditions, housing and health-related policies.  

student fellows meeting together
The fellow’s work increased our capacity to educate the community, and broader numbers in the community, and therefore, increased our ability to support the successful approval and completion of new housing policy reform, and deeply affordable and supportive housing in our community. Host Organization for Housing Fellow

Addressing Food Insecurity

The Food Fellow provided technical assistance to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Healthy Cities team for a county-wide food policy scan. The food policy scan updated the existing Healthy Cities policy library and policy tracker, and created a Food Policy Outreach Plan that would engage community members to better understand their vision of how cities can promote the health and wellbeing of city residents. These contributions helped inform what policy-related technical assistance jurisdictions needed and could lead to the passing of policies benefiting many community members in need.

Additionally, the Food Fellow enhanced food access research, data analysis, and communication efforts for the County Public Health Department’s CalFresh Health Living Team. In partnership with this team, the fellow focused on supporting the Board of Supervisor Food Initiative Referral and co-authored the Food System Work Plan in 2021 which provides background on food insecurity before and during the pandemic, and details goals and recommendations as a roadmap for the development of the County’s Food, Restaurants, Agriculture, and Health Access Initiative.

The Food Fellow’s contributions to this report not only resulted in a growing knowledge base of the health department team, but also helped build relationships between county departments and external stakeholders who were involved in the process. The work plan is already guiding Santa Clara County’s actions towards creating a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable food system that positively impacts their food insecure population. The report was presented to the Board of Supervisors and allowed the county to justify the need for a more coordinated food system, resulting in the adoption of the report and funding for a half-time position to coordinate food systems work and solutions. 

Funding and Treating Hepatitis

The Policy Fellow was instrumental in researching a wide range of health topics to support The Health Trust’s legislative efforts and their leadership efforts contributed directly to The Health Trust’s sponsored California Assembly Bill 789 (Healthcare Services) which was signed into law by the Governor in October 2021. Starting in January 2022, AB 789 mandates doctors in California to offer free and voluntary Hepatitis B and C screening to at-risk Californians. It also requires the provision of care and treatment for those who test positive.

California is the first state in the country to provide adults voluntary screenings for Hepatitis B and C. This law will save countless lives and Californian taxpayers’ dollars through early diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis B and C. Most people living with Hepatitis B and C come from marginalized communities with less access to healthcare. 

In order to continue to foster health equity in communities, it requires programs like this fellowship to ensure that emerging leaders are supported and cultivated to be the next generation of public health leaders. When the collective of rising public health experts and advocates reflects the diversity of the communities they serve, there is much greater likelihood that their work will amplify the voices that too often go unheard and directly serve those most in need.  PHI’s dedication to cultivating the next generation of public health leaders that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve sets the stage for this kind of essential programming.

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