In the News
Public Health Schools, Civic Groups Work to Advance Health Equity in California
- Berkeley Public Health
“UC Berkeley School of Public Health is the driving force behind a new coalition of public health schools and civic groups working to advance health equity in California.
The California Alliance of Academics and Communities for Public Health Equity, nearly ten years in the making, seeks to harness public health research to rectify injustices that have long harmed people with low incomes and communities of color in the state.
The alliance unites researchers at more than 30 California colleges and universities with community health care organizations that are already working to promote better health in both the state’s rural and urban centers. It is housed at the Public Health Institute, and funded by The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, the California Health Care Foundation, and the Blue Shield of California Foundation and launched late last year.
Morry Rao Hermón, the BPH director of philanthropy who was instrumental in building the Alliance, views the coalition as a “Shidduch” – the Yiddish word for matchmaking – between scholars and community activists.
“There are many faculty at Berkeley and other schools who went into the public health field to make an impact in the world,” he said. “They want their work to have relevance for real, positive change.
“We can harness the vast resources of the academy to support grassroots community organizations who are on the front lines of advancing health equity, and who need support with data to make compelling cases to the legislature,” he said.
The organization has a broad agenda. Researchers want to increase diversity in California’s public health workforce and to train students to fight the impact of racism on health. They also want it to function as an engine for policy change on many issues, including environmental justice, domestic violence, gun violence, and the intersecting crises of homelessness, hunger, and discrimination.
We’re doing something that hasn’t been done before in the U.S. This is about building those bridges between the silos that have historically existed, so we can work together on a common policy agenda.Michael Rodriguez, MD, MPH
Director, California Alliance of Academics and Communities for Public Health Equity
Dr. Rodriguez has long been devoted to improving health equity. Born in San Francisco, he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. He went on to attend medical school at UCLA, then trained in family medicine at UCSF before obtaining a master’s degree in public health at Johns Hopkins. Rodriguez was a family physician and professor of family medicine at UCLA for 21 years, and also founded the Health Equity Network of the Americas, a 24-country network of government, academia and community groups, based at the University of Costa Rica.
With so much to address, what will the alliance take on first?
Dr. Rodriguez said the organization is starting with violence prevention, and is lobbying to repeal the current requirement for health practitioners to report suspected cases of domestic violence to law enforcement agencies.
The law was adopted to provide help for survivors of domestic violence, but, Dr. Rodriguez said, it often backfired.”
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Originally published by Berkeley Public Health