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Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund Co-Sponsors
For Immediate Release: May 3rd, 2023

Contact: Zack Kaldveer, Public Health Institute, 510-938-2664, zkaldveer@phi.org
Full Event Video Available Here.



Advocates, Lawmakers, Community Orgs Rally in Sacramento for Historic Health Equity & Racial Justice Fund

CA Governor and State Legislature Urged to Support Transformational New Approach to Addressing Health Disparities and Racial Injustice

Sacramento, CA – Today, public health advocates, California lawmakers, racial justice groups, and local community groups and leaders came together at the State Capitol to urge Governor Newsom and state legislators to include the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ Fund) in the 2023-24 state budget. The HERJ Fund would create a grant program to provide resources directly to community-based organizations, tribal organizations, and clinics (CBOs) to address the root causes of health disparities by advancing health equity and racial justice.

In California, Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian American, Native American, LGBTQI+, and other low-income and marginalized populations bore the brunt of the pandemic, largely due to long standing health and social inequities for communities of color, including lack of access to healthy food, insufficient housing, and unstable employment. These factors have led to persistent higher rates of death for many Californians of color from largely preventable causes, such as COVID-19, heart disease and diabetes.

“Communities of color and low-income communities are facing dual public health crises that demand urgent legislative action,” said Pastor Trena Turner, Executive Pastor, Victory In Praise Church and Community Development Center (former Executive Director, Faith in the Valley). “The HERJ Fund would help unlock and expand the power of communities to advance a movement for racial, economic, and environmental justice in neighborhoods across the state. I urge state lawmakers and the Governor to invest in CBOs so they can do what they do best: address health disparities and promote racial justice.”

The current approach to health in California emphasizes treating the sick, rather than focusing on keeping people healthy in the first place. The state spends $ billions to treat disease but has not succeeded in changing the community conditions that drive them. Proposals in the budget are top-down, with the government traditionally prescribing both the issues and the solutions. Too often CBOs are excluded from the decision-making processes that directly affect the communities they serve and must rely on limited, intermittent, funding to deliver high quality services to their communities.

“Too many disadvantaged, low-income California communities of color are saddled with poverty-wage jobs, separate and unequal schools, unaffordable housing, and polluted neighborhoods, all of which lead to deep health inequities,” said Jasmine Dellafosse, End Poverty in California. “The HERJ Fund would finally address the systemic policy choices that cause health disparities by investing in organizations and leaders rooted in communities to develop effective solutions.”

During the pandemic, California State agencies relied on CBOs to help stem the impacts of COVID-19. State officials recognized the critical value of CBOs that have trusted relationships in their communities, can tailor health messages to local conditions, and are fluent in every language spoken in California. These on-the-ground organizations also work effectively with local health departments, other public agencies, and healthcare providers to identify emerging needs and implement community driven solutions.

“In order to successfully address health disparities, we need to advance systemic change. The HERJ Fund would address the root cause of health inequities by directly investing in community-based solutions,” said Dr. Seciah Aquino, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, “The fund radically transforms the existing system by centering the unique and trusted role CBOs have nurtured over decades of service. It is beyond time California trusts a ‘by community, for community approach’ that is not only successful but also life changing.”

The HERJ Fund rally was part of a larger, Having Our Say! Event coordinated by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. The Having Our Say! Coalition is a statewide, multi-racial and ethnically diverse coalition that gathered in support of a handful of key bills and budget investments for health equity and racial justice (HERJF being one)

The HERJ Fund is supported by a coalition of over 200 supporting organizations, representing nearly every issue area and geographic location in the state. The Fund is championed by Senator Eggman and Assemblymember Arambula, and in each of the past two years, the California Legislature prioritized its inclusion in its proposed budget. In each instance, Governor Newsom subsequently stripped the Fund back out.


HERJ Fund Co-Sponsors include: Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL); Black Leadership Council; Black Women for Wellness Action Project; California Alliance of Academics and Communities for Public Health Equity; California Black Health Network; California Black Women’s Health Project; California Latinas for Reproductive Justice; California Pan-Ethnic Health Network; Cultiva La Salud; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; National Health Law Program; Public Health Advocates; Public Health Institute; Roots Community Health Center.