County Public Health Departments Receive Honors
December 17, 2019
The California Endowment, the state’s largest health foundation, announced the recipients of the 2019 Advancing Health Equity Awards for their local innovations in improving public health. Seven county public health departments and health human service agencies from across California were honored by The Endowment at a recent ceremony for their work that goes beyond the traditional scope of public health to positively impact the health of poor and marginalized communities.
“Bringing health equity to all Californians requires public health departments to think outside of traditional medical interventions and practices to reduce and eradicate health disparities experienced by California’s poor and marginalized communities,” said Anthony Iton, MD, JD, MPH, senior vice president, The California Endowment.
Launched in 2014 by The Endowment, the Advancing Health Equity Awards are meant to bring attention to and reward public health department practices that can inform and inspire the future work of others committed to improving health equity. This year’s awards ceremony at The California Endowment’s Oakland conference center featured a fireside chat with California’s Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris.
“Understanding the science of toxic stress is an important addition to all the work we are doing on health equity,” said California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris. “Because when we deploy all the science and resources that we have, including all of the resources of health care to be part of the solution, that gets us to achieving a health equity agenda faster and more effectively.”
This year’s Advancing Health Equity Awards recipients are:
The Arnold Perkins Award for Outstanding Health Equity Practice was awarded to the Riverside County Department of Public Health for its partnership with Starting Over, Inc. to reduce housing discrimination for the formerly incarcerated. The Department of Public Health’s role is to provide resources and technical support such as data analysis, guidance on policy and County politics, and meeting logistics. Starting Over’s role is to provide lived experience narratives and expertise on the criminal justice system. Having voices of system impacted people at the table helps ensure that housing developments will less likely include blanket barriers for individuals with criminal convictions.
An Excellence in Health Equity Practice Award was Presented to the San Francisco Department of Public Health for its Black African American Health Initiative, which is a series of workgroups with specific goals on improving outcomes for specific health conditions for San Francisco’s underserved, black communities, most notably hypertension and chlamydia. The hypertension workgroup efforts resulted in closing the gap between Black/African American blood pressure control from 8 percent to 3 percent in four years. Through its cultural humility workgroup, intensive training to normalize discussion on racism among Public Health leadership resulted in the implementation of racial equity teams, councils and committees across the Department.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health received an Excellence in Health Equity Practice Award for its transformational journey to build health equity and embrace racial justice that resulted in their launching of the Center for Health Equity. The Center seeks to increase The Department’s competency and capacity to engage in sustained equity work, amplify community voice and authentic narratives to drive action, and support community to engage in efforts to eliminate inequities, among other objectives. Starting internally, the Department created “Just Culture” which challenges their hierarchal power dynamics, views system issues and behavioral choices as interconnected, and encourages responses to problems to be led with fairness and kindness. These principles also drove their response to concerns about the Exide battery recycling plant’s lead contamination of surrounding communities. Through their partnership with community-based organizations, the Department and community members were able to engage the affected communities to call for a strong regulatory response to address the lead contamination across thousands of homes.
An Emerging Health Equity Practice Award was presented to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency Public Health Division for its significant efforts and commitment to increase equity for underserved communities through the building of their internal infrastructure in order to bring equity to the forefront of their public health efforts. Significant resources were and continue to be invested in leadership development and staff training to reinforce efforts that focus on addressing power as the root cause of health inequities. Staff and leadership at all levels of the agency are involved and a Health and Racial Equity Committee was created and works robustly to ensure ongoing learning and staff training at all levels of the County’s Public Health Division. They are also embedding strategies to address equity and power imbalances into the 2020 Community Health Improvement Plan in order to sustain health equity efforts across government agencies.
A Catalyst Health Equity Practice Award was given to the Calaveras County Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health Division for the creation and ongoing implementation of The Calaveras Oral Health Program. Calaveras County is often stymied by the lack of data on health issues impacting Calaveras County residents. Due to the rural nature of the County, health data is often aggregated along with other smaller counties, if it’s captured at all. This lack of data makes it especially difficult to address public health issues in rural counties resulting in poor health outcomes for California’s residents of rural communities. The Public Health Division conducted a Calaveras County Oral Health Community Needs Assessment and used the findings to create the Calaveras County Oral Health improvement Plan. The needs assessment and improvement plan demonstrate how communities can use knowledge to give voice to an issue, gain resources and positively affect the health of the community.
An Honorary Health Equity Practice Award was presented to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department for its collaboration with the community organizing group Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) to ensure farm workers have access to safe and clean toilets, and potable water while working in the fields. Subsequently, the County’s Public Health Department convened a multi-sectoral work group that included CAUSE, labor groups, community-based organizations, California Rural Legal Assistance, UC Merced, farmworkers, and industry owners and representatives to jointly address these issues through data collection and policy recommendations. Public Health’s partnership with CAUSE provides a voice for farmworkers which will help advance health equity in the Santa Barbara County farmworker community.
An Honorary Health Equity Practice Award was also given to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department for the PEACE Partnership. The partnership brings together 37 partners including, community residents, public health, healthcare organizations, schools, city and county agencies, and others to build a healthy, peaceful and empowered community by preventing and addressing violence and trauma in East San José. By investing in people, places and opportunities, and rooting hope and healing at the center of activism for policy change The Public Health Department believes the partnership can help transform the health, safety and resilience of the East San José community.
The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians.