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UCLA competition provides funding to students and community organizations to address health inequities

UCLA Health Equity Challenge to award up to $200,000 to develop solutions to health equity issues in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022
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Health equity has become a priority across various organizations, especially during the past 2 1/2 years. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified disparities, a spotlight was placed on inequities that have long existed across multiple social policy domains in California and across the nation.

The UCLA Health Equity Challenge, conducted by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR), led by Dr. Ninez Ponce, the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s Fred W. and Pamela K. Wasserman professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, and in collaboration with the MolinaCares Accord and the California Health Care Foundation, is providing an opportunity for UCLA graduate students to become part of the solution. Starting October 12, 2022, the competition invites UCLA graduate students to propose solutions to address a health equity issue that community-based organizations (CBOs) can implement within their practices.

“Participating in the UCLA Health Equity Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for students who are passionate about providing equal care for all Californians,” said Dr. Kathryn G. Kietzman​, director of the Health Equity Program at the UCLA CHPR. “Not only does this challenge equip finalists with the tools to succeed in the field of health policy, it allows them to channel creativity in how equal access to care is promoted across the state.”

UCLA graduate students are invited to submit a two-page application​ that identifies a current health equity issue in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, or Riverside counties and a short description of an intervention that could be implemented by a local community-based organization. Proposals can span direct interventions, program development, policy changes, or other innovative ideas. Concept proposals are welcome from disciplines that intersect with health, including policy, education, law, urban planning, psychology, and others. Applications are due on October 31, 2022.

Fifteen (15) finalists will be selected for the full competition. Each finalist will be provided a $2,500 stipend and over the course of 15 weeks, work with a faculty or community mentor, participate in trainings, write a blog, select a community organization that can implement the project, and develop a full project proposal. Projects must be feasible and have measurable outcomes to improve an identified community health issue. An Independent Review Committee will review the proposals and up to four (4) students will be awarded an additional $2,500 stipend, and each community partner organization will receive up to $50,000 to implement the project.

The inaugural UCLA Health Equity Challenge kicked off in January 2022 with 10 finalists who developed projects on various communities that experience significant inequities, including LGBTQ+ people, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, immigrants, older adults and Black girls.

In June 2022, UCLA graduate students Angelica Johnsen and Alma Lopez were selected as the grand prize winners of the inaugural challenge, and their community partners were awarded $50,000 each to fund and implement their proposals. Lopez’s project is a pilot for SHIELDS for Families to evaluate English and Spanish online peer support groups as an intervention for mothers of color with perinatal depression in South LA. Johnsen’s project idea is helping Charles R. Drew University develop a mental health de-escalation toolkit for medical providers, including students at the university, so that the next generation of health professionals will have the training needed to stabilize patients experiencing a mental health crisis.

Up to four final proposals will be selected by the Independent Review Committee and four associated CBOs will receive funding of up to $50,000 for implementation. The winning students will receive an additional $2,500 stipend to continue documenting the experience of the project’s implementation.

“MolinaCares knows from our work across California, and across the country that health disparities are widespread and require ongoing resources and solutions to resolve. We are excited to partner with UCLA to invest in the public health leaders of tomorrow and spur creative thinking on how to solve persistent issues faced by vulnerable communities across California”, said Abbie Totten, MolinaCares representative and Plan President of Molina Healthcare of California.​

UCLA CHPR, MolinaCares, and the California Health Care Foundation will also host a Health Equity Challenge Information Session on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, from noon to 1 p.m. PT on Zoom. UCLA graduate students will have the opportunity to get additional details about the program and ask questions.

Key Dates

Oct. 12, 2022: Applications open.
Oct. 17 2022: Information Session webinar, noon to 1 p.m. PT. Register here.
Oct. 31, 2022: Applications due by 5 p.m. PT. Apply here.
Mid-December 2022: Fifteen (15) UCLA graduate students will be selected to participate in the final round and receive a $2,500 stipend.
Jan. 9, 2023–April 28, 2023: Students will work with their mentors to develop their full project proposal. Students will participate in health policy and program development training and create blog posts.
Early June 2023: Up to four (4) winners will be announced at an awards ceremony. Each student will receive an additional $2,500 stipend and up to $50,000 will be awarded to their community organization to implement the proposed project.

Visit the Health Equity Challenge website.

by Vanessa Villafuerte and Tiffany Lopes


The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.