PHI’s Impact in 2016
PHI is dedicated to improving health and wellness by discovering new research, strengthening key partnerships and programs, and advancing sound health policies. Over the past year, we worked with communities across the U.S. and around the world to research some of the most critical emerging public health issues, to harness the power of data, to get more healthy food on the table and increase jobs in rural communities, to prepare for emerging epidemics, to push for policies that ensure healthy housing—and much more.
Here’s just a sampling of what our programs accomplished in 2016:
More healthy food on the table
PHI and Roots of Change, one of PHI’s programs, co-sponsored a California State Budget Proposal to set aside five million dollars to support healthy food incentives. The funding for incentives will help double the value of each dollar spent on California-grown fruits and vegetables for people on SNAP benefits (food stamps), and it’s estimated that they will create nearly 2,000 jobs in rural communities.
In a farm economy still hurting from drought, this modest $5 million investment is expected to boost farmers’ sales ten times and increase employment in rural communities—all while improving the health of local families on SNAP benefits.
A recent study showed that for every $1 million in produce purchased directly from farmers, 32 jobs are created. With the amount of additional spending unleashed by the nutrition incentive program, the program can expect to generate more than 1,900 more jobs on small farms. As a result of this new funding, families will get more healthy food on the table, farmers and small businesses will sell more produce, and agricultural communities will see economic growth.
Identifying the prevalence of ACEs
PHI’s Survey Research Group conducted a survey of nearly 28,000 California residents, leading to shocking revelations that one out of five California adults with children living in their homes were beaten, kicked or physically abused when they were children, and one in ten were sexually abused. This data has fed into a larger campaign for public health organizations around the country to begin treating the long-lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as an urgent public health crisis.
Using the data, PHI, LiveStories, and The Center for Youth Wellness created an interactive data tool that displays county and state-wide data about the pervasiveness of ACEs alongside resources and words of wisdom from thought leaders. Facilitated by PHI’s new data and persuasive storytelling, the field is shifting its understanding of how to treat and understand the generational effects of trauma and events experienced in childhood.
Acting on climate change
Through advocacy, expert testimony and research, PHI’s Center for Climate Change and Health supported the groundbreaking passage of California legislation, SB 32 and SB 1383, the most aggressive climate change bills in the country.
In 2016, the State Legislature solidified California’s role as a leader in policy changes to slow climate change with the passage of these two bills, buoyed by PHI’s advocacy and research that integrates the long-term consequences climate change will have on vulnerable populations. On the local level, PHI’s Center for Climate Change and Health championed a ban on coal handling in Oakland, CA, citing the detrimental effects nonrenewable energy has in exacerbating climate change.
In California’s Imperial County, asthma rates are among the highest in the state. PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program worked with partners and community members to launch IVAN Air Monitoring, which uses air quality monitors that provide real-time data so that parents, schools and community members can protect health and advocate for cleaner air policy.
Children in Imperial County have an asthma ER rate that is nearly twice the state average, and particulate pollution often exceeds state standards for more than six months at a time. Before a recent collaboration with PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program, residents lacked a reliable source of data on air quality in their neighborhoods.
The project, undertaken through a collaboration between local organization Comite Civico del Valle and CEHTP, installed air quality monitors around the county that collect data and then made it accessible through a community air monitoring website called IVAN Air Monitoring, putting real-time information in residents’ hands. Leveraging this new data, parents, schools and community members will protect the health of themselves and their children, and advocate for cleaner air policy going forward.
Using data to improve health
Spurred by a 2014 report by PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program—which found huge racial disparities between the pesticide exposure of Hispanic and white children at schools—in 2016 California introduced new regulations on the use of agricultural pesticides applied near to schools and day-care facilities.
The CEHTP report found that Hispanic children were 46% more likely than white children to attend schools with any pesticides of concern applied nearby, and they were 91% more likely than white children to attend schools in areas with the highest use of pesticides. In response, California introduced new regulations on the use of agricultural pesticides applied near schools and day-care facilities.
The new regulations prohibit many pesticide applications close to public K-12 schools and child day-care facilities during school hours. Additionally, public K-12 schools and child day-care facilities will now be informed when certain pesticide applications are made within a quarter mile of these schools and facilities.
In 2016 PHI’s Center for Health Leadership and Practice met with local leaders in the U.S. Virgin Islands to facilitate a strong, coordinated public health response to the Zika virus. The center’s model approach to creating cross-sector collaboration is informed by lessons learned from past epidemics and can support other communities facing Ebola, Zika and other infectious disease outbreaks.
By bringing tested and proven models built by lessons learned as a result of past epidemics, the center is helping international and domestic entities build cross-sector capacity and collaboration for preparing for and responding to infectious disease outbreaks.
PHI’s Center for Technology and Aging continues to pioneer new outreach techniques to underserved communities. In Oakland, CA, the Center helped place care navigators directly into five African-American churches to provide care to aging congregants.
For people suffering from advanced illnesses like cancer, navigating the complex healthcare system can be daunting. Through a joint program with the Alameda County Care Alliance in Oakland, CTA partnered with five African-American churches to place care navigators directly in their congregations, who are there to offer advice on advanced directives and offer guidance on housing, transportation, and respite care for caregivers.
Through innovating and promoting new outreach techniques, CTA is helping to reach communities that experience consistent health disparities throughout life that are made even more pronounced as age brings on advanced illnesses.
Producing life-saving research
PHI’s Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) found that women with irregular menstrual cycles had up to a threefold increased risk of ovarian cancer. The findings will provide new tools to identify early warning signs for a type of cancer that in the past has gone unnoticed until it’s too late.
More than 50 years ago, CHDS enrolled over 15,000 mothers early on in their pregnancy. Follow-up studies of their children, now adults, and of their grandchildren enable CHDS scientists to study health across generations and seek ways to prevent disease early in life. Identifying risk factors for ovarian cancer, which is usually not diagnosed until after it has spread, allows clinicians to develop strategies to potentially save lives. The findings from this study published in 2016 in the International Journal of Cancer give women and clinicians new tools to identify irregular menstrual cycles as an early warning sign for a cancer that might otherwise be ignored.
PHI’s Cultiva La Salud is helping food vendors in Fresno, CA, transition to selling healthier options in the city’s food deserts. Mobile vendors in Fresno’s Latino community are now selling fruits and vegetables and connecting residents to supplemental nutrition programs. The initiative garnered them a win in the state’s Let’s Get Healthy California Innovation Challenge.
The healthy food vendors were also outfitted with new bicycle carts. By removing unhealthy food while increasing access to healthy options, the project is promoting healthier diets and ultimately helping reduce the onset of chronic disease. The mobile vendors now sell freshly-cut fruits, vegetables and other healthy options, they discuss nutrition information, and they are modeling biking and healthy eating.
PHI’s research, evaluation, and media advocacy played a key role in the passage of new taxes on sugary beverages around the country, including three measures endorsed by PHI in the Bay Area. Evaluations by PHI’s Lynn Silver documenting the success of Berkeley’s soda tax helped counter misleading messages from the soda industry and frame the conversation around public health, as they were cited throughout the campaign in advocacy and press efforts.
Though the soda industry spent tens of millions of dollars on ad campaigns to discredit science, voters made it clear that they will no longer tolerate the devastating impact of sugar sweetened beverages on their communities.
A study by PHI’s Lynn Silver, Suzanne Ryan-Ibarra and Marta Induni was cited in many media stories, showing that a soda tax passed in 2014 in Berkeley, CA, was working as intended by reducing sales of unhealthy beverages while also generating millions of dollars to support prevention and build healthier communities. The 2016 votes on soda taxes are a victory for public health, and PHI will continue to stand for the health of people in the years to come.
PHI’s Regional Asthma Management & Prevention program co-sponsored a bill in California that gives tenants new rights when they discover dangerous mold, which is linked to asthma and other respiratory diseases. Now listed as a condition of substandard housing, tenants can hold landlords accountable if the problem is not fixed.
Until the bill passed, tenants had few options if their residence had mold. With the new legislation, renters can now for the first time report mold problems to the city, which can then demand repairs and fine landlords who don’t comply.
Investing in young leaders
The Youth Champions Initiative, part of PHI’s RiseUp, invests in powerful young leaders n Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and the United States who are leading the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement.
In Pakistan, one 2016 seed grantee, Ali Raza Rizvi, is using short films and street theatre in the remote areas of Karachi and Interior Sindh to prompt new community discussions about the importance of SRHR.
Raza Rizvi’s Ehsas Films is also creating new live and online platforms to discuss SRHR after each screening, performance, and posting.
Ongoing monitoring and evaluation demonstrates that the Youth Champions have significantly strengthened their leadership, and that their innovative projects are already improving SRHR in their communities.
The 2016 release of the new California Health Disadvantage Index, 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 may lead to more targeted health interventions in underserved communities.
The Health Disadvantage Index 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 and policy makers target limited resources and guide effective on-the-ground actions.