New Health Department Director Mobilizes Data to Encourage Action on Social Determinants of Health
In 2013, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services hired a new Director, Kelly Colopy, who had a strong vision for having the City Health Department collaborate with education, economic and social service partners to address the social determinants of health. Using the City’s Community Health Assessment, Director Colopy presented to anyone who would listen – community groups, City staff, directors, and others about the inequities between neighborhoods within Long Beach, particularly between neighboring zip codes 90803 and 90813. These presentations began to raise awareness about the seven year difference in life expectancy between neighborhoods and the value of a health equity framework.
Under her leadership, the Health Department began to lead the City of Long Beach Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) cohort, plan efforts for Long Beach to become a Trauma Informed City, engage in the Safe Long Beach Violence Prevention Plan and lead mental health diversion from incarceration efforts.
Participation in GARE Builds Framework & Interdepartmental Collaboration
Starting in 2015, the City of Long Beach began working with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), initially with 8 City staff who went through the GARE training and now with strong representation from 12 of the 18 City departments. Work with GARE has provided a framework for discussing racial equity and helped facilitate communication between staff across the City through their monthly convenings and regular communication via email and in person.
City Council Cite Health Statistics, Support Racial Equity Work
In July 2016, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson recommended that the City Manager explore the feasibility and benefits of establishing an Office of Equity, Access and Prevention that would realign violence prevention, language access, and Human Dignity programs into the Department of Health and Human Services. In September 2016, the City’s budget allocated a position for fiscal year 2018-2019, and grant funding was leveraged to launch the Office of Equity in January 2017.
Long Beach Receives Health Equity Grant
In 2016, The California Endowment awarded the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department a grant of $200,000 over two years to build a health equity framework within their local health department. Funding is being used to fund a portion of the GARE trainings, implementation of a health and racial equity assessment tool, developing workshops for LHD staff, and integrating health equity into the Health Department’s Strategic Plan. The funding was also used to hire the new Office of Equity Manager, who will help implement all of the above activities. Although currently grant funded, the longer term vision is that the Equity Manager will be funded using general funds and not grant funding, since equity work is about systems and culture change and requires being very nimble, which often is hard to do with grant funding.
Building on this growing commitment across the City to advancing racial equity, The Office of Equity was formally established in January 2017. The Office of Equity is intended to accelerate the City’s vision to end health, social and racial disparities by working to normalize, operationalize and institutionalize policies and practices that can reduce or eliminate disparate outcomes.
To facilitate this, equity programs that were previously housed in the Development Services Department, including the Language Access Program, My Brother’s Keeper and the Human Relations Commission, were transitioned over to the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services’ new Office of Equity.
Katie Balderas started as the new Office of Equity Manager for the City of Long Beach Department of Health & Human Services in January 2017. She previously worked for the Los Angeles County Public Health Department where she served as a Social Determinants of Health Policy Analyst and drove policy efforts around healthy housing, collaborated with other LA County departments to create an Equity Scorecard and participated in Government Alliance for Race and Equity trainings. She also served as a health educator for Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Programs and a policy liaison for the Tobacco Control & Prevention Program. Katie has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Public Health, both from California State University, Long Beach.