The start of a new decade hit us with a pandemic that no one saw
coming. An abrupt economic crisis followed, along with anxiety,
isolation, and uncertainty. The pandemic highlighted and
exacerbated the existing inequities within our county and
country. To say that it’s been a challenge is an understatement.
Families have lost so much – from loved ones, to jobs, financial
security, and their normal family and community connections.
Greetings, GHSMC partners! I write my final post with deep
gratitude and optimism during one of the more challenging years
in recent memory. As I wrap up my transition this month working
for the County of San Mateo, I am encouraged by all the great
health equity work that I was fortunate to be a part of during my
three years with the Health Policy and Planning team. We
were able to advance policy efforts such as Daly City being the
first city in the county to adopt a Vision Zero Action Plan to
eliminate traffic deaths, which disproportionately affect our
most vulnerable communities.
It’s hard to imagine that we are in the home stretch of our
2015-2020 Get Healthy SMC Strategic Plan. Five years ago, you
told us that being healthy wasn’t just about getting to the gym,
having vegetables with lunch, and cutting out soda for kids. You
shared your experiences and those of your families and
communities that demonstrated that we can’t be healthy in
isolation – we need healthy, equitable communities for all.
Justin and Grace here combining forces to talk about anchor
strategies, which is a framework for building health and wealth
in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. Across the country,
hospitals and health systems are using their economic power to
improve community well-being. These large place-based
enterprises, also known as “anchor institutions”, are using their
resources to create economic opportunities for excluded and
low-income residents through inclusive workforce programs,
equitable procurement policies, sustainability efforts and
One of my favorite things about this job is the chance to learn
about issues impacting our most vulnerable in our County and ways
we can advance health equity by building financial security for
all people. One issue we’ve been researching recently is the
impact local fines and fees can have on residents’ ability to
grow their assets and savings.
Over the last year and a half, four communities in San Mateo
County have been hard at work looking for solutions to overcome
barriers to youth success. Despite busy schedules and competing
priorities, over 1,000 community members showed their investment
in young people’s futures by taking surveys, attending night
meetings, knocking on doors, talking to neighbors and digging
deep with their communities to come together around top
Last year, the Built Environment Committee (BEC) of BARHII, which is the Bay Area coalition
of public health departments, has been exploring the intersection
of habitability and community resiliency. Environmental factors
such as extended heat waves and severe weather caused by climate
change exposes those who reside in substandard households to
higher health risks such as heat-related illnesses or death.
“Family therapy brought me closer to my dad,” says an
incarcerated youth at San Mateo County’s Youth Services Center.
“I was never as close to my dad as I am now.” We’re discussing
what would have made a difference for him—the supports and
barriers along his path, which for most of the last two years has
taken him in and out of this detention facility. Access to family
therapy and a supportive parole officer has been stabilizing
since he has been incarcerated, and he pauses to consider the
earlier supports that could have made a difference.
While voting may not seem like a public health issue, research
shows a correlation between voter turnout and positive health
outcomes. This means that places with higher rates of voters also
have higher rates of positive health outcomes, such as overall
improved mental and physical health . Alternatively,
places with low voter turnout have higher rates of poor
self-reported health, and research shows that there is a
connection between reported and actual health outcomes .
Every Autumn when school is back in session, I find myself
reminiscing about my own childhood. My brother and I walked
everywhere, then when we were old enough we rode our bikes all
over town. We knew our neighbors and I delivered the local paper
to my neighbors on my way to school. I grew up in a leafy suburb
in Los Angeles, lived ten blocks from school and my parents never
worked more than 20 minutes away. This is not a typical
experience in present day California.
Colleagues and Friends – I feel more energized than ever to
continue our fight for health equity in San Mateo County! I had
the great opportunity to join over 4,000 professionals last week
at the 2018 PolicyLink Equity Summit. The Summit shared an
inspiring vision of diverse leadership paving the way for a more
equitable, healthy and prosperous future. It was clear that
the issues of Get Healthy San Mateo County are also the
issues of the nation, and we were able to dig into them with
other jurisdictions and leaders working on similar issues.