AS A SECOND-YEAR STUDENT in UCLA’s Public Health Training Program on Population Health Advocacy in 2017, Saul Garcia, MPH ’18 (above, far left), fought to ensure that South Los Angeles residents had opportunities to lead healthy, productive lives. Today, Garcia is a coalition organizer for the Urban Peace Institute, where he advances community health by supporting efforts to improve access to quality schools, parks and public spaces in historically marginalized neighborhoods.
Thanks to The California Endowment’s support of student training initiatives at the Fielding School, it’s an outcome that’s largely by design. By providing training to effect change and financial resources to support students’ work, the Fielding School’s program allows students to gain the experience with advocacy and community work that they want and need. This ultimately prepares alumni like Garcia to join the public health workforce and drive systemic changes that will help foster healthy and safe communities. With seed funding from The California Endowment to establish the program in 2015, Garcia and a growing cadre of fellows have contributed more than 25,000 hours to public health advocacy, in collaboration with nearly 30 community-based organizations across Los Angeles.
The field training program embeds public health students in organizations serving under-resourced communities to gain experience and develop skills in design, implementation and evaluation of population health advocacy. For community partners, the project provides experienced, motivated and highly committed students to help advance organizational and community agendas. The Endowment recognized the need to create opportunities for students to gain tangible experience with evidence-based policies and programs and learn how they can be implemented in the community setting, in collaboration with the partner organizations. “Policy advocacy is an important skill set for public health practitioners to possess,” says Marion Standish, senior vice president at The Endowment. “Our experience has shown that policy and systems change is an essential component in community change and promoting health equity across the state.”
The program’s ultimate aim is to create significant and sustainable change in students, organizations and communities through a pipeline of leaders who intimately know the challenges and opportunities within their communities and will devote themselves to this work. In addition to lead funding from The Endowment, the program has received support from Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and The Max Factor Family Foundation. But maintaining this substantial undertaking and providing policy and advocacy training for students well into the future requires further support. To help the Population Health Advocacy Program train public health students to become advocates for change, please visit giving.ucla.edu/advocacy.
As the largest source of funding from foundations to the Fielding School, The California Endowment’s support has widespread impact on the school’s mission of training, research and service. In addition to supporting the advocacy program, The Endowment regularly funds the California Health Interview Survey, housed within the FSPH-based Center for Health Policy Research, as well as faculty research initiatives focused on advancing community health.