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Reflecting on 2018, Looking Toward 2019

Staff Perspective Shireen Malekafzali

Greetings Get Healthy SMC partners,

The close of the year is always an introspective time for me. I think back at what the year has brought and think ahead to what I hope the upcoming year will bring – personally and professionally. 2018 has been an intense year for our Get Healthy San Mateo County collaborative. More people and organizations are now engaged in advancing healthy communities through transportation and mobility options, increased attention to housing stability, sustainable food systems, and social-emotional environments in schools. Cross-sector collaboration feels renewed and partnerships are more energized than ever.

But we have also seen challenges to our mission with increased federal attacks on our immigrant residents and displacement of our low-income families. The more engaged and connected we are as a community, in solidarity, the better we can be in shaping our collective future.

Our team came together earlier this month to identify some of our impacts for 2018 and start to consider adjustments to our activities for 2019 based on learning from 2018. What I’m sure of is that we have worked very hard to identify impactful ways to address the root causes of poor health, never just taking the easy path but pushing ourselves to take roads less traveled if they look promising for prevention. We know that health doesn’t happen in the few hours a year a person spends in a doctor’s office. Health happens in all the other (many) hours of the year where we work, live, play, and connect. Preventing disease means working to succeed in those non-healthcare hours, and that work is complex and doesn’t have a well paved path. We are dedicated to learning from you and with you on this journey to ensure equitable opportunities to good health.

Below are some examples of how we advanced your Get Healthy San Mateo County priorities in 2018 and some preliminary thoughts on how we’ll continue the path into 2019. Please know how much we appreciate your partnership in 2018 to make this work possible. We can’t wait to continue and grow our partnerships in 2019 to build the vision of healthy communities. It takes a village!

Community Collaboration for Children’s Success:

  • 2018: We conducted an analysis to identify the areas in San Mateo County with the highest-need youth populations, as well as a strong set of youth supportive assets and collaborations to build on. We began planning with local leaders in South San Francisco and North Fair Oaks/Redwood City to hear from over 400 impacted youth and families on the critical challenges to youth success and what should be done about it. We are nearing completion of neighborhood plans with community-prioritized actions tailored to the experiences and needs of each neighborhood.
  • 2019: We’ve learned a lot and just launched our planning effort in Daly City in November and are getting ready for our launch in East Palo Alto. We will have four community plans midyear and plan to support implementation in the second half of the year. This is an innovative initiative lead by County Health, Human Services Agency, Probation, Office of Education and First Five, that holds enormous promise to support children across the county.

Healthy Economy:

  • 2018: We began to explore the Anchor Institution model, which helps us intentionally align County Health business needs with our mission to support longer, better lives for our residents. This year, we focused on workforce opportunities to support the development of pipelines for impacted residents into jobs in County Health. We support eight disadvantaged youth of color from San Mateo County go through the Emergency Medical Services Corps training program and conducted focus groups to better understand the challenges of frontline staff engaging with our clients on a daily basis. We also saw a resurgent interest in our low-wage worker profile analysis (that we conducted in partnership with the City of San Mateo in 2017) in cities such as Belmont, Redwood City, and Daly City as they explored minimum-wage policies.
  • 2019: We’ll start a pilot program to better support the retention and upward mobility of our front-line County Health staff. We’ll explore more in-depth analysis of our workforce needs and connections to local residents who need employment opportunities. We’ll also begin to look into how our procurement could better advance health equity through investments in local workforce and businesses.

Healthy Schools:

  • Our strong partnership with the County Office of Education (COE) has helped us complete a countywide summit on restorative justice practice (RJP), hold stakeholder conversations and conduct research to understand the needs and opportunities for RJP in San Mateo County. We supported COE to conduct 7 trainings and provide technical assistance to 197 school staff. COE doubled down on their commitment to RJP by hiring a full-time trainer earlier in the year! We also support UC Cooperative Extension and HEAL Farm’s efforts to build capacity in children and youth to understand the importance of healthy food eating, food production, and environmental sustainability, reaching over 1,500 children and youth.
  • 2019: We plan to publish a strategic plan for implementing RJP, learning from our stakeholder conversations and the landscape of best practices nationally. We will continue to support COE’s technical assistance and training provision to broaden the reach of this important practice while deepening the work to measure impacts. We will plan a three-part professional development training series with COE through the School Wellness Alliance. We’ll continue our partnerships to ensure youth and children build their capacity and connection to the environment and healthy food.

Healthy Sense of Belonging and Civic Engagement:

  • 2018: We deepened our understanding of the research that demonstrates the importance of civic engagement for health. We took that knowledge and worked with our County Elections Office to launch our first-ever Voting Matters Initiative, which leveraged our unique relationships with clients and partners to ensure that more of those who experience health inequities are voting for the future they’d like to see in their communities. We connected with over 200 people, sharing the new laws and mechanisms to vote. We enhanced civic engagement broadly by supporting youth and community engagement on local healthy communities’ decision-making. For example, we supported Committee for Green Foothills civic engagement training of numerous residents on advocating for complete, healthy environments in San Mateo County, Faith in Action’s leaders in connecting with East Palo Alto on accessory dwelling unit policies and getting Daly City residents out to vote, the San Mateo County Youth Commission’s efforts to ensure youth voices are prominent in our County infrastructure, and more.
  • 2019: We’ll evaluate the impact of our work and identify opportunities to engage those with health inequities into civic decision-making. We are exploring a publication on the connections between civic engagement and health outcomes, expanding our voting matters efforts to get out the vote more effectively, supporting an accurate census count, and trying to understand better how to overcome key barriers to civic engagement by youth.

Active Transportation:

  • 2018: We have been engaged in building active transportation opportunities for over ten years now. This year marked a moment of focused attention to prioritizing safety and mobility by deepening our research on priority locations in our county. We released the Creating Safer Streets Near Schools report showcasing six top priority areas for Safe Routes to Schools enhancement, secured $100K in grants in partnership with COE to support safety near priority schools, and supported Daly City’s interest in planning for their Vision Zero policy with support from the Federal Highway Administration grant and stakeholder partnership.
  • 2019: We’ll implement safety programming for our priority schools, expand funding for infrastructure improvements in priority cities, support Daly City’s Vision Zero planning, and expand our work to make transit is accessible to those that need it most through engagement in the Community Based Transportation Planning lead by C/CAG.

Complete Neighborhoods:

  • 2018: We participated in the Home for All collaborative initiative to increase housing options for all in San Mateo County. We participated in outreach and engagement of cities and communities on the issue of housing and co-chaired the effort to identify ways to overcome the issues of parking and congestion in housing production. The Home for All Mobility Toolkit is published and available for cities and community leaders. We engaged with cities such as San Bruno, East Palo Alto, South San Francisco, and San Mateo on built-environment planning efforts to ensure health considerations.
  • 2019: We have been working on a Healthy Communities Toolkit to make it easy for built-environment planning to incorporate health considerations and advance health equity. The toolkit includes chapters on transportation, housing, economic opportunities, and more. We’ll continue to participate in the great work of the Home for All collaborative to improve housing options and partner with local organizations to increase healthy housing opportunities. We’ll continue to prioritize our support for cities to include a health consideration in their planning processes and build in health from the start. 

Healthy Food Systems:

  • 2018: We continued to support a diverse group of leaders to collaborate to holistically improve our food system, from production through waste management. We started a new partnership with the Office of Sustainability to enhance our commitment to implementing strategies for sustainable food systems.
  • 2019: We will support the implementation of the strategies identified by the Food Systems Alliance for a sustainable food system, and enhance their reach and power to advance their capacity to implement their goals. We’ll continue to partner with our San Mateo County Family Health colleagues to support healthy eating and engage with the End Hunger Taskforce on expanding the uptake of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.