For Immediate Release: September 11, 2023
Contact: Zack Kaldveer, Public Health Institute’s Prevention Policy Group, 510-938-2664

Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund Left Out of California Budget Again
Coalition Argues Community Advocacy Must be Central to Addressing Systemic Injustice

CA – The Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ Fund) Co-Sponsors released the following statement in response to being left out of the California budget (FY 2023-2024):

“We are profoundly disappointed – once again – that despite the California Legislature’s support, the Newsom administration and California Legislature could not come to agreement on establishing a California Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ Fund) that would address structural racism and deep-rooted social determinants of health inequities as public health crises in California.

The HERJ Fund is a bold and innovative proposal that would create a statewide grant program to provide resources directly to community-based organizations, clinics, and tribal organizations (CBOs). It remains a critical missing component of our state’s approach to public health, with the potential to help ensure all Californians, regardless of their skin color or zip code, can thrive and live healthy lives.

This year, we were appreciative of the proposal by the Newsom Administration to establish the structure of the HERJ Fund in California statute. However, the language provided would have specifically disallowed the use of any resources in the HERJ Fund for advocacy. Following deep reflection, the coalition could not support a proposal that would silence the very communities the HERJ Fund was designed to amplify.

The inclusion of prohibitions on the allowable use of advocacy is unacceptable and runs counter to decades of established public health practice in California, and nationally, to address the most pressing public health challenges through policy, systems, and environmental change. Restricting advocacy would set an alarming precedent, tying the hands of grantees, and undermining the ability of communities to advance strategies and policies that would make their neighborhoods healthier and more equitable.

From California’s internationally recognized tobacco control programs to efforts to reduce obesity and improve local food systems, an emphasis on community-level approaches that address the root causes of poor health, such as increasing healthy food options to creating healthier living environments, demonstrate the effectiveness of using advocacy tools at the state and local level to improve health. The first trans fats bans, ending flavored tobacco, bikeshares, the eviction moratorium during COVID, and farmers market incentives are all social changes launched through local CBO or health department advocacy.

Our Coalition remains dedicated to continuing the fight for sustained investments in community-driven approaches that address racial injustices and health inequities. We are also committed to continuing to work with Governor Gavin Newsom and the California State Legislature to revisit the proposal and ensure that the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund remains true to its intended purpose.

Our communities are watching, and they deserve nothing less than the establishment of a Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund that will tackle the deep-rooted and systemic factors that are barriers to full equity and racial justice.”

Full list of co-sponsors:

  • 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