A new year, a renewed commitment
Unfortunately, 2017 delivered all of the angst many health equity and social justice advocates predicted. The year began with a change of administration in Washington, followed by promised attacks on the Affordable Care Act and immigrants. But the angst didn’t end there, as public education, environmental protection and anti-poverty programs including food and nutrition and child care became targets for retrenchment. Shifts in the policy landscape came at such a relentless and seemingly random pace that funders and their nonprofit partners were hard pressed to keep up. And despite California’s and other progressive states’ attempts to push back on bad federal policy decisions, the effects of these changes are real and concerning.
Midway through the year’s drama, I was honored to receive a national award from my peers in health philanthropy. In my acceptance speech, I encouraged my fellow leaders to elevate our commitment to being responsive and directly engage with our nonprofit partners and impacted communities, even as we continue to pursue facts, evidence, scale and innovation. More important I think was my call for organizing a multi-issue social movement focused on equity and rooted in a determinant of health framework. The goal of such an undertaking would be to strategically harness the collective voice, energy and growing political influence of communities most impacted by disparities in health outcomes to defend existing policy and programs that are effective, and to advocate for new approaches that have the potential to advance our cause in the future.
The voice I carried that day was far more than my own; it was also the collective wisdom and knowledge of community partners who graciously shared their aspirations and vision with us over the past five years. In so many of these conversations we were encouraged to not show up as community saviors, but rather to show up with the intention of building the capacity of community residents and their trusted institutions to work together to save themselves. This was sage advice then, and even more so during these challenging times.
Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the many successes our partners achieved in 2017, despite the difficult environment. Examples include the Black Child Legacy Campaign’s community mobilization and system change effort that helped reduce black infant sleep-related deaths; San Joaquin Valley Health Fund’s Equity on the Mall day-long rally, which attracted more than 1,000 valley residents to the State Capitol on a cold, rainy day to advocate for their “Golden State for ALL” health equity policy platform; Positive Youth Justice Initiative’s mobilization of system-engaged youth and their advocates to push for trauma-informed/youth development-oriented juvenile justice systems in 11 counties across the state; and our support for the launch of Fresno’s Immigrant Legal Defense Fund designed to protect the human rights and dignity of the
undocumented and their families. All of these successes reaffirmed for us that the best strategy to end the assault on social programs and advance a health and racial equity agenda has community and resident leadership at its center.
So what does this all mean for the Foundation and The Center in 2018? It means that we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to health and racial equity by ramping up our support for efforts that amplify the voices, ideas and participation of communities to engage in the democratic process of policy setting and system change. It means that we will expand current investments in disproportionately impacted populations by deepening our partnerships with Native American communities and pushing even harder to advance a policy agenda focused on improving justice, education and economic outcomes for boys and men of color. It means that we will continue to defend and promote what is effective in reducing disparities in health outcomes with all of the tools available to the Foundation and The Center. It means that while the imperfect national policy winds we recently had at our back have
changed, our values and commitment to equity and social justice will not. It means we will continue our work to build a social movement for health equity across California as an example for the nation, led and made unstoppable by those we serve and their supporters. Join us.
Chet P. Hewitt
President and CEO
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Responsive Grants Program funding available
Responsive Grants Program funding continues in 2018, with grants up to $15,000 to support projects that improve health and quality of life for people throughout our 26-county funding region. There will be one funding round this year, with a total of $500,000 available. We will award at least 30 percent for projects serving rural areas of the region.
Online applications are due by March 19 at 1 p.m.
We will hold a webinar on Feb. 6 and an in-person proposers’ conference on Feb. 15. Participation in the webinar or the in-person conference is recommended, but not required.
Register for the proposers’ webinar or conference and download application materials on the Responsive Grants Program web page.
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San Joaquin Valley leaders, residents to stand in unity at Equity on the Mall
For far too long, communities across the San Joaquin Valley haven’t had access to the same opportunities that make California golden for other regions. Leaders, residents and advocates who are working to change that will gather at the California State Capitol on Feb. 8 for the second annual Equity on the Mall.
Organized by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund and The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, the day will include a powerful program at the west steps of the Capitol with remarks by elected representatives and community leaders, music, spoken word and an equity platform on some of the most pressing issues impacting communities in the San Joaquin Valley. There also will be a policy briefing in the Capitol and a forum on how to move the Valley forward at the Sacramento Convention Center.
If you would like to stand in unity with Valley residents and leaders for immigrants, children, youth, women, families, LGBTQ and vulnerable communities, please plan to join us. Online registration is available on the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund’s Equity on the Mall web page.
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San Joaquin Valley Leadership Executive Committee developing policy priorities
Established in October 2017, the San Joaquin Valley Leadership Executive Committee is comprised of elected officials working with the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund in the counties of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare. On Jan. 24, the committee was joined by representatives from the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund Policy Committee at Sierra Health Foundation to lay the groundwork to develop a set of policy priorities to improve outcomes for residents. Their focus is on advocating for increased investment, raising awareness of the assets of the San Joaquin Valley and serving as a collective voice for the shared needs of Valley residents. These pressing needs call for community and elected leaders to develop collaborative solutions for all San Joaquin Valley residents.
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California Funders for Boys and Men of Color work to create policy and systems change
Members of the California Funders for Boys and Men of Color (CFBMoC) met at the East Bay Community Foundation in Oakland on Jan. 17 for their annual all-member meeting, where they reflected on their place-based strategy in three regions of the state, and embarked on their Narrative Change Campaign to shift narratives of boys and men of color.
As part of the learning opportunity, members heard from Dr. Monique Morris of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute and engaged in a powerful conversation about how to work in solidarity with efforts focused on girls and women of color in addition to their work for boys and men of color. Members also engaged in conversations with partners from the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color to learn about policy priorities. Finally, members discussed how best to align the CFBMoC with work at the national level through the National Executives’ Alliance and My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
CFBMoC members continue to move their work forward to create policy and system changes that provide more opportunities for boys and men of color in California. Learn more on the CFBMoC web site.
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Black Child Legacy Campaign supporters join MLK Day marches
Community members joined the Black Child Legacy Campaign and walked boldy for healthy moms and babies during the MLK365 and the North Sacramento MLK marches on Jan. 15. More than 400 participants wore green scarves symbolizing the campaign to wrap the community in love. “Love will, in the end, connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Northern California Evaluators network launches
With leadership from Sierra Health Foundation Evaluation Director Leslie Cooksy and support from the foundation, NorCal Evaluators was launched in December to strengthen evaluation practice throughout the region. Evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of individual programs, policies, organizations and other entities to improve their effectiveness, efficiency and worth. It informs program improvements, provides accountability, supports organizational learning and contributes to the development of new knowledge. A strong and diverse pool of evaluators is an important resource for organizations.
NorCal Evaluators will facilitate peer learning and collaboration and provide skill-building opportunities. The network anticipates becoming an affiliate of the American Evaluation Association, the national network that aims “to improve evaluation practices and methods, increase evaluation use, promote evaluation as a profession, and support the contribution of evaluation to the generation of theory and knowledge about effective human action.”
The group is open to all practicing evaluators. Founding members include representatives from state and local government agencies, philanthropy, for profit and nonprofit consulting firms, and universities. While most current members live or work in the Sacramento-Davis area, evaluators throughout Northern California are welcome. Join the NorCal Evaluators Meetup group.
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Ellen Braff-Guajardo and Genoveva Islas join Sierra Health Foundation
We’re pleased to announce that Ellen Braff-Guajardo and Genoveva Islas have joined our team.
Ellen is a senior program officer supporting our social justice and racial equity work to combat inequality in the San Joaquin Valley and across California. She brings extensive local, state and national philanthropic and nonprofit experience to expand and increase our work for children and families experiencing some of the worst health outcomes in the state. She brings a deep commitment to community engagement as a way to achieve health and racial equity.
Most recently, Ellen served as a national program officer for W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the Food, Health and Well-Being (Healthy Kids) Team, where she developed and led a national strategic grantmaking portfolio in support of healthy community and health equity with a focus on policy and systems change. Previously, she served as a senior nutrition policy advocate with California Food Policy Advocates, was a program officer with The California Endowment in the San Joaquin Valley, and was the agricultural worker health project director for California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
Ellen has a master’s degree in education and a juris doctorate awarded by the University of California, Los Angeles, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Genoveva is the Executive Director of Cultiva La Salud, a program dedicated to creating health equity in the San Joaquin Valley by fostering changes in communities that support healthy eating and active living.
Genoveva has deep knowledge of the Central Valley, as she has lived and worked in the region for most of her life. For the last 10 years, she has engaged Latino community members in Fresno County in systems change, including facilitating participation of Latino residents in informing the Active Transportation Plan by sharing their needs and challenges, and leading the community engagement component of the Champions for Change Nutrition Education and Obesity Project for three years.
Genoveva has a master’s degree in public health education and promotion from Loma Linda University, and a bachelor’s degree in health science from California State University, Fresno.
We know that Ellen and Genoveva will bring new ideas and perspectives to our collective work of promoting community health and health equity for all.
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Talk Boldly podcast series launches with Dr. Clarence Jones
Hosted by Sierra Health Foundation and highlighting the authentic voice of community leaders who inspire us, our new Talk Boldly podcast series features conversations on the systemic, social and cultural issues impacting our communities, and offers insight from expert guests on how communities can make their own impact.
We launched Talk Boldly on Jan. 15 with an episode titled Civic Engagement featuring Dr. Clarence B. Jones, noted lawyer, author, professor and civil rights activist, who spoke with Ray Green of Sacramento’s Roberts Family Development Center advocate-to-advocate about challenges and opportunities for community leaders and the public, using the lessons he’s learned from his time as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s counsel, advisor and friend. Dr. Jones is the author of What Would Martin Say? and Behind
the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation, and is currently the University of San Francisco’s inaugural Diversity Scholar Visiting Professor.
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Art exhibit rooted in the immigrant experience and ritual
We’re pleased to exhibit the work of Svetlana N. Sidorkina, featuring handmade felt and fiber pieces that stand as expressions of the artist’s connection to Siberia, of the experience of immigrants, and of the historical and cultural link to ritual. Svetlana says of the objects, “They reach towards history, not perfection.” The exhibit is available to view through February, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at our Conference and Education Center, 1321 Garden Highway in Sacramento.
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Throughout 2018, we’re continuing to highlight the work of our partners through the #PeoplePursuing campaign. We invite you to visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for new inspiring posts!
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