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Reflecting on Our Work in 2017

Staff Perspective Shireen Malekafzali

Hello Colleagues and Friends – As 2017 is coming to a close, I wanted to take the time to reflect with you on our collective priorities under Get Healthy SMC. We are half way through the five year strategic plan and have learned a lot as a collaborative on how the four community-identified priorities come together to impact healthy, equitable communities. We have now built strong partnerships with the leaders working across the priority issues and sharpened our strategies to have impact. I have one or two highlights for each priority that I want to lift up and celebrate with you. We certainly can’t take credit for these alone but as a collaborative, we provided support to cities, schools or community based organizations to build momentum for success.

  • Healthy Schools:

    • Restorative Justice Practice (RJP) –a practice of moving away from punitive disciplinary policies that limit children’s educational success and health –has been proliferating greatly, thanks to partnerships with the County Office of Education (COE) and schools and districts. In 2016, we supported leaders in the San Mateo/Foster City Middle School District to implement RJP in four middle schools with great success, which served as a model to expand upon. In 2017, we partnered with the COE to provide trainings on RJP throughout the county with more than 80 teachers and school staff participating in oversubscribed trainings. In 2018, we’re continuing our partnership with the COE to provide additional trainings and add a train-the-trainer module to exponentially increase RJP. In 2017, we also partnered with experts in the field to conduct an assessment of existing RJP efforts in the county and build on national best practices to develop a strategic plan for countywide expansion of RJP. Early in 2018, we will hold an RJP Summit with COE to share the findings. Stay tuned for more updates on this important effort into 2018!
  • Healthy Neighborhoods:
    • The Daly City Council became the first city council in the county to introduce the Default Beverage Ordinance; moreover, the council unanimously approved the introduction of the ordinance. This policy eliminates sugary drinks as the default beverage in kids’ meals at chain restaurants and instead makes water or milk the default beverage. We have a lot of confidence the ordinance will pass. We have been providing data and technical assistance, as needed, to the Council, city staff and community partners on this topic since 2015. Daly City has some of the highest diabetes rates in San Mateo County and is the county’s largest city and one with close to 20% of its population being under the age of 18.
    • We examined Safe Routes to Schools to identify public elementary schools that should be prioritized for improved bike/pedestrian safety features and supported the COE and C/CAG in their funding opportunities to prioritize these key schools. Targeting resources to high need, high collision school environments is an important step towards ensuring safe walking and biking routes for children in San Mateo County. Daily physical activity is critical to achieving health, and it needs to done in ways where children and families feel safe.
  • Healthy Economy:
    • Belmont followed the City of San Mateo in passing a minimum wage ordinance this year. Other cities such as Daly City and Redwood City are considering introducing similar ordinances in 2018. We provided data profiling low-wage workers in San Mateo County to overcome myths that tried to downplay the importance of higher wages for this population. Improved wages will help families access healthy food, support housing stability and decrease stress –among other great benefits.
    • We are partnering with Alameda County Public Health Department to support four San Mateo County residents to participate in their nationally recognized program, the Emergency Medical Services Corps (EMS Corps), to provide career opportunities for disadvantaged populations while diversifying the medical field.  We worked hard to build the partnership with the EMS Corps program to allow San Mateo County residents to benefit from the training. Once certified, these students will be able to enter a living wage career and help us ensure our EMS front line workers are representative of the diversity of our residents. We can’t wait to report back on their progress!
  • Healthy Housing:
    • Housing Leadership Day, the full-day conference on housing issues specific to San Mateo County, focused on Healthy Housing. Get Healthy SMC has been sharing the data, framing and connection between health and housing for a couple of years, and it was great to see the most important housing conference for San Mateo County feature health as a prominent focus. This enabled housing stakeholders to deepen their understanding of the implications of housing on health and strengthened our partnership with housing leaders. We are planning additional efforts with housing leaders in 2018 so stay tuned!


This has been a wonderful year for the Get Healthy SMC collaborative, building on research, partnerships and momentum to achieve some key goals. We have learned a lot and continue to learn. We are only half-way through and have so far to go!  We remain committed to our vision to ensure that all residents, regardless of income, race/ethnicity, age, ability, immigration status, sexual orientation, or gender have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  Our mission remains incredibly relevant and motivates staff and collaborative members to continue to work hard every day for a healthier, more equitable San Mateo County. 

On a closing note on 2017, I can’t leave without noting the deep changes we saw in the tone of the political climate across the country this year. I’m heartened by the number of people we have seen become activated to participate in public decision-making in ways that we haven’t in many years. The unprecedented civic engagement leads to more informed decision-making, ensures a larger population has a voice in decisions that impact their lives, and improves health by increasing a sense of control and efficacy over one’s life.  Deep and fair civic participation helps ensure a healthy and fair democracy. I’m excited about how that will carry us into 2018.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all your hard work and partnership in 2017 to advance a healthier, more equitable San Mateo County.

With deep appreciation,

Shireen Malekafzali