A young woman working in the community

Why Public Health is the Ideal Career Path for Gen Z

Public Health is potentially the most undervalued, untapped reservoir of career potential for young students who are ambitious, eager to make an impact at a systemic level, and want to pursue a career path that offers both fulfillment and job security.

Public health requires every skill set, meaning everyone from marketers to software developers, scientists to statisticians can find a role that touches lives and makes real impacts. There is no shortage of jobs or job security, and there are openings in every frontier of this field. The field offers a chance to make a real difference, something many young job seekers cite a desire to do in their jobs, and the wealth of opportunities in public health create the perfect environment to do that. In addition, the public health field offers a level of job security that is increasingly tough to find in other industries. 

So what’s the disconnect? Why aren’t new graduates flocking to the career opportunities in public health? The answer is that public health has an image problem, and it’s due time to fix that.

In this article, we’ll cover: 

  • What does it mean to work in public health?
  • What jobs are available in public health?
  • The growing demand for young talent in public health
  • Why public health is an ideal career path for Gen Z
  • Why are young people overlooking careers in public health?
  • Bridging the gap in exposure with K-12 Health Pathways programs

What does it mean to work in Public Health?

To address this, we first should identify what we mean by “public health.” 

What does Public Health encompass?

Public health seeks to improve overall population health, empower communities to become responsible for their own health, and to protect people from disease and other preventable public problems like water and food contamination. Public Health is made up of essential services, both at the state, local, and city levels and also the work that health systems, centers, and community organizations do. 

What is the difference between Healthcare and Public Health?

Healthcare is typically delivered one to one by providers like doctors, nurses, and techs in a clinical setting. Public health is focused on working further upstream to address systemic issues and root causes of health problems affecting whole communities of people. The ultimate goal of public health isn’t only to treat the problems, it is to prevent the problems before they happen.

This means that those working in public health are considering a variety of disease states, certainly, but there are others looking at everything from environmental issues to average commute times to accessibility of green space in particular communities. Public health seeks to address the overall wellness of a community and takes into account much more than medical well being. 

What jobs are available in Public Health?

The word “health” typically lends itself to mental images of doctors, nurses, and hospitals, but that isn’t all that public health is. Many of those working within this field have job titles that can also be found in other industries. In the realm of community wellbeing, these familiar roles work hand in hand with clinical healthcare to better the holistic health of a large group of people, whether it’s a neighborhood, city, community or state. 

Common Career Paths in Public Health

Health administration and policy:

These roles oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of hospitals and other healthcare facilities and generate ideas and solutions to solve challenges. Their responsibilities might include planning and supervising all medical services—including monitoring budgets and updating health records. Candidates for these roles often have a degree in healthcare administration and may go on to pursue management degrees. 

Some jobs in this field include: 

  • Health Policy Analyst
  • Health Policy Research Assistant
  • Lobbyist
  • Public Affairs Specialist
  • Wellness Coordinator

Maternal child health:

Those working in maternal and child health look at public health through the lens of providing accessible and comprehensive prenatal care to pregnant women and resources and guidance once babies are born. These workers help address inequities in access and take into account cultural, social, and economic factors within communities. 

Jobs in this field might include: 

  • Lactation Consultant
  • Inbound Call Center Representative
  • Patient Care Assistant - Labor & Delivery
  • Maternal Health Research Scientist
  • Prenatal Education Coach

Healthcare program management/coordination:

In these roles, employees perform administrative and supervisory duties from creation and implementation of health-related programs to program monitoring and evaluation. This is a broad-spectrum role, and can focus in lots of different areas. Most candidates have an undergraduate degree.

Jobs in this field could include: 

  • Assisted Living Administrator
  • Professor or Researcher at a College or University
  • Consulting Health Care Administrator
  • Healthcare Quality Improvement Manager
  • Health Information Manager

Infectious Disease:

This field commits to investigating and protecting people from health threats including foodborne illness and waterborne illnesses, infections that spread in hospitals or might be resistant to medication, illnesses that spread through travel, illnesses spread by animals and insects, and new diseases that might be of concern, like Covid.  

Job titles commonly include: 

  • Health Scientists
  • Operations Research Specialist
  • Clinical Specialist
  • Research Associate


This is the study of why and how often certain diseases occur in different groups of people. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom disease has already developed.

Jobs titles might include: 

  • Infection Control Epidemiologist
  • Pharmaceutical Epidemiologist
  • Field Epidemiologist
  • Molecular Epidemiologist

Health education & community health:

People in these roles keep groups of people (employees, residents, students) up to date about common health issues and concerns, providing information and resources. They may also oversee teams of community health workers, guiding community members through healthcare systems and services, and ensuring individuals can access the help they need. These roles train and guide health workers, and handle day-to-day issues and concerns that arise from work in the field, acting as both human resource contact and mentor. These individuals often have degrees in healthcare administration, but others are promoted from the ranks of community health workers. 

Jobs in this field might include: 

  • Wellness Program Coordinator
  • Public Health Educator
  • Health Services Manager
  • Fitness Specialist / Trainer
  • Community Health Worker

Public health nutrition:

These specialized nutritionists are tasked with identifying unique nutritional issues within specific communities. They seek to find the source of prevalent issues and find ways to address them. The objective of this role is to contribute positively to the overall nutritional health of a population of people, driving education and awareness around good eating habits and how food impacts health. 

These jobs include: 

  • Registered Dietician
  • Nutrition Professional
  • Nutrition Services Worker
  • Nutritional Health Coach
  • Nutrition Education Coordinator

Global health:

Those working in this field have a similar focus to many pathways in public health, but they take a wider view of emerging challenges, and take into account the social, cultural, economic and environmental factors contributing to health inequities around the world. 

Job titles include: 

  • Biostatistician
  • Global Health Consultant
  • Global Health Educator
  • Global Policy Analyst

Environmental health:

This is the branch of public health that looks specifically at relationships between people and their environment. Those working in this field strive to address chemical and other environmental exposures in air, water, soil and food to protect people and provide communities with healthier environments.

Roles in this field include: 

  • Air Pollution Analyst
  • Environmental Health Inspector
  • Health and Safety Engineer
  • Environmental Toxicologist
  • Professor

In-Demand Skills in Public Health

While some people come to the public health field having intentionally secured a particular degree, there are a broad range of applicable skill sets that most people gain in school or in other careers, making public health a welcoming second-career for many.

  • Data analysis: all kinds of data are generated within the field of public health, and analysts may be called upon to collect and analyze data to assist decisions around the health of populations. Data analysis is used to determine if programs are working or if there are unmet needs among particular groups of people. 
  • Technology: those adept in software and hardware applications are needed to help update the field of public health as technology advances in general. Technology experts are helping with everything from providing online access to appointment booking to providing access for telehealth care to automating prescriptions. 
  • Strategy: as with so many other fields, action in public health follows careful planning, something those with experience analyzing existing information, budgets, and goals can help with. 
  • Marketing and public relations: now more than ever, messaging is critical. Whether it’s helping the public understand why and how to vaccinate against a disease, or raising awareness about a local effort in the community, keen marketers and public relations pros who understand how to work with media will always be in demand. 
  • Activism and lobbying: because so much work in public health happens thanks to federal and state funding, there is always a need for those able to work within communities and with representatives to ensure that legislation follows real needs. 
  • Change management and consulting: anyone with experience inside entities that have undergone strategic reorganizations will find a role in public health, where so many departments and sectors are working to adapt to changing technology, workforce sentiment, and community needs. 

The Growing Demand for Young Talent in Public Health 

The Mounting Shortage of Public Health Workers

In our most recent blog article, we talked about the critical shortages around the country in the public health sector and explored some of the contributors to these shortages. 

Consider these statements: 

New Talent is a Critical Need in Public Health

The current workforce is aging, and over one-fourth (27.78%) of employees of state and local public health departments in 2017 were older than 55 years, meaning this population is in the midst of a steady retirement wave, while there are few new entrants backing them up. Many of these workers have been in public health their whole careers, so when they leave, they take decades of institutional knowledge and experience with them. 

While some knowledge is departing with those retiring, an influx of younger, more technology-adept workers is an idea welcomed by the field. Modernized approaches to outreach and communication are sorely needed, and those willing to address existing problems with new methodologies and technologies are eagerly welcomed. 

Public Health is an Ideal Career Path for Generation Z

Gen Zers look at the world differently than previous generations, with strong values related to racial justice and sustainability. Large scale mobilizations like the Global Climate March thrive on the activism of these young people who frequently call for reform on personal, public, and global scales to prevent future catastrophe. “Many Gen Zers describe themselves as environmentally conscious, and the majority of Gen Z expects to see sustainability commitments from companies and organizations,” according to a study by McKinsey & Company

This is the definition of the public health domain. No other field offers such a broad swath of programs and initiatives that directly impact the well-being of so many, while also offering a vehicle to employ and develop skills in technology, data analysis, communication, and beyond. 

Given that one quarter of the workforce by 2025 will be comprised of those identified as Gen Z, it seems like the perfect time for public health to make an appeal. This field needs diverse, young talent that reflects the cultural makeup of their communities. It needs people who really want to make a difference and aren’t hesitant to engage directly with the people around them in an effort to improve the lives and communities where they work and live, and people who are technology savvy, looking to innovate to ensure the field can keep up with – and stay in front of – its evolving constituency. And there are plenty of reasons to do so.

Reason #1: Affecting Systemic Change

Multiple recent workforce surveys illustrate that Gen Z cares about the world around them and wants to work in fields that have direct impact for good. One study notes:  “Gen Z actively advocates for causes they believe in. They participate in protests, grassroots movements, and online activism to raise awareness and drive meaningful impact. Gen Z's passion for sustainability has made them a driving force in shaping conversations and pushing for a more eco-conscious society. 73% of Gen Zers are willing to pay more for sustainable products.”

This desire to make a lasting and beneficial impact isn’t isolated to Gen Z, but is a broader trend, growing as information about the impact of humans on the world around them becomes more accessible. A recent study at Deloitte found, “More than half of Gen Zs (55 percent) and millennials (54 percent) say they research a company’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job from them. Seventeen percent of Gen Z respondents and 16 percent of millennials say that they have changed their jobs due to climate concerns, with 25 percent of Gen Zs and 23 percent of millennials saying they plan to do so in the future.”

This desire to effect systemic change and lessen negative impacts can be hard to reconcile with the goals and projections of many corporate entities, especially publicly traded ones, making a career in public health a fitting alternative. This is why public health is such an ideal fit for this generation.

Reason #2: Making Grassroots, Community-Based Impact

While many members of Gen Z are vocal on social media and in their peer groups, it isn’t always easy to find ways to ignite real change within their communities and beyond. The public health career field offers hands-on opportunities to make critical differences to entire communities of people. For those looking to create government-driven change, there are paths within public health to do just that. 

Reason #3: Applying Technology and Communication Skills

For the first generation of digital natives, public health is an ideal outlet to put to use the communication and tech skills that are often second-nature. The opportunity is ripe for a traditionally slow-moving field to receive an influx of young and energetic workers who can help mobilize and rebuild the industry from the inside out, doing more good for more people on more fronts than ever before. 

Reason #4: Finding Career Fulfillment

Where so many occupations create a sense of detachment, a feeling of being a cog in a wheel, public health presents the opportunity to mobilize and empower entire communities of people. For those interested in influencing policy and funding to create visible impact, there is no better field to pursue. Additionally, there are numerous positions within the field where employees work inside a community, with citizens, to develop strategies and craft inputs that are representative and meaningful, and where the results of their work are visible in the short and long term. 

Reason #5: Wide Range of Career Possibilities and Job Security

There are more opportunities across the spectrum of skillsets within public health right now than in any other field. Where recent graduates used to flock to startups in the tech industry, we expect to see a growing number entering the wide range of jobs available in public health. There are so many opportunities for lateral and vertical growth with the industry, and the promise of job security is a boon - something almost impossible to find in other arenas today. 

Why are young people overlooking careers in public health?

A Messaging & Exposure Problem

One of the key reasons young people don’t pursue roles in public health is that they simply don’t know they exist. Kids are exposed to healthcare at early ages, and no child doesn’t know that “doctor” or “nurse” are jobs they might pursue. Very few understand the wide realm of opportunity that exists in public health, even as they enter high school and college. This is partially due to the fact that, as Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari noted recently, “If we’re doing our jobs right, nobody knows we’re doing our jobs because we’re preventing disease, we’re preventing illness, we’re preventing emergencies related to the food supply. We do our job quietly in the background and we don’t tell our story well.”

Building K-12 Pipelines to Increase Exposure

Because there is a wide breadth of opportunity in public health, it’s difficult to create a soundbyte to help expose students to the field. As a result, repeated and deep exposure to the range of career choices must be intentionally included alongside other career exposure programing. 

Local organizations are collaborating with public health departments to learn more about the needs within our communities in public health and taking those to the schools to build out pathways programs that will help fill the pipeline. In the long run, this is the only reliable way to build a funnel of interested and motivated people to enter the public health field in the future. 

By offering a combination of site visits, speakers, work-based learning opportunities, internships, and exposure events like conferences, organizations like Reach Out, Health Career Connection, and many others are actively changing the messaging surrounding the public health field, but it is a slow process, and one that requires many contributors to work. 

Conclusion: An Overlooked Field with Exceptional Promise

It’s critically important that young people are exposed to the possibilities available to them, both to encourage them to pursue meaningful careers and to help offset a major public health crisis in the Inland Empire and beyond. Students should be exposed to the variety of jobs available in this challenging and rewarding field, especially because the broad range of opportunities embrace those with college degrees and without. 

In order to expose young people to the world of public health careers, we need to continue to build our K-12 pathways, starting education about the opportunities available in public health as early as possible. Additionally, these pipelines need to connect to real-world opportunities beyond high school, through career pathway programs at junior colleges and universities that create internships and mentorships that give students a chance to experience the roles they’re considering. 


Learn more about Reach Out’s youth pathways initiatives here, and if you are a funder, legislator, educator, or administrator interested in helping drive the message about the wealth of opportunity in public health forward, please get in touch! 



A woman presenting to a group

Why the Inland Empire Needs More Public Health Workers

There is an ongoing crisis within the public health system in the Inland Empire (and beyond). 

Part of the problem is that most of us are unaware of the role that public health plays when it is working well. As Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari noted recently, “If we’re doing our jobs right, nobody knows we’re doing our jobs because we’re preventing disease, we’re preventing illness, we’re preventing emergencies related to the food supply. We do our job quietly in the background and we don’t tell our story well.”

It’s time to tell the story of public health, and it’s time to work as a community to build a pipeline of public health workers for the future. The consequences of inaction will ensure that public health becomes a focus of awareness for every single citizen, because we will all be affected to some degree. 

In this article, we’ll be shedding light upon: 

  • The startling decline in public health workers
  • Why public health workers are leaving
  • How the shortage in public health workers will affect us
  • Solving the problem with a coordinated regional effort
  • The bottom line: fixing the exposure and messaging problem

The Startling Decline in Public Health Worker Numbers

How large is California's public health workforce gap?

Put simply, the gap is huge. A study published in March 2023 noted: “Nearly half of all state and local public health employees left their jobs between 2017 and 2021. An additional 80,000 workers are needed to provide a minimum set of public health services to citizens.”

While most of us have heard about shortages in clinical staff, particularly nursing, on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, what you might not realize is that non-clinical workers make up a significant part of the public health workforce. 

How many public health workers will we need by 2030?

Projecting the future needs of the public health workforce is made all the more difficult by the reality that data is incredibly fragmented. Presently, due to the lack of a central data source, it is nearly impossible to keep tabs on the whole of the public health workforce or plan for upcoming gaps, since there is “no single source of data that encompasses all workers in the public health workforce.” That said, it’s easy to gain a clearer picture of the whole by considering anecdotal information that can be found easily in any public health department within the Inland Empire. In Riverside County, as an example, a posting for an epidemiologist was open for three months without a single qualified applicant found.

This leaves public health across the country in a purely reactive state. Needless to say, we are unprepared to face another pandemic, and the academic consensus is that we are not wondering if there will be another global pandemic, but instead are contemplating when. 

The Root Causes: Why are public health workers leaving?

Retirement of Lifelong Employees

One of the key contributors to the upcoming departure of many of our public health employees currently is age. According to Dr. Jeff Leung, Riverside County Public Health Officer: “Many people who join public health stay in public health for their whole career.” That means that when they leave after 20 or even 40 years, they take a wealth of knowledge along with them, creating a vacancy that is very difficult to fill. 

While many people immediately think of doctors and nurses when the term “public health” is mentioned, the shortages extend beyond clinical settings. 

Positions facing severe shortages include: 

  • Health and medical managers
  • Hospital and healthcare administrators
  • Biostatisticians
  • Management consultants specializing in healthcare
  • Epidemiologists
  • Occupational health and safety specialists
  • Social and community services managers
  • Health education specialists

Covid-19 Burnout

The pandemic had a profound effect on the state of public health in this country. When it began, those in the field were put under extreme pressure, partially fueled by the fear gripping citizens around the globe. That pressure, coupled with the longevity of the pandemic, led to a significant portion of the workforce citing burnout and departing. 

Beyond the pandemic’s direct effects, Covid-19 also swung a spotlight onto a field that typically operates, as Saruwatari said, behind the scenes. The public had opinions on the way the pandemic was being handled on a variety of levels, thanks in part to the politicization of the issue, and public health departments took a lot of criticism. This lack of public support for what is a fundamental and under appreciated function of society created a hesitancy for those who might have been considering careers in the public health field. 

Lack of An Established Career Pipeline 

Because public health has often operated under the radar of most peoples’ awareness, the career options within the field are not the kinds of things that children grow up planning to pursue. Without exposure to the wide range of career opportunities available, those rising through our schools choose alternative paths instead. 

A Slow-Moving Government Engine

The nature of the public health field–that it is a government job–is part of the issue in several ways. For one thing, government careers don’t offer the reliable benefits and pensions that once led so many to opt for the security of a government job over higher salaries in the private sector. With pensions disappearing, government positions are being forced to compete on salary, where private organizations often have the upper hand. 

For new graduates facing student loan debt, these numbers matter. According to a recent future workforce study, “the top three reasons that upcoming and recent grads would turn down a job include low pay, poor work-life balance, and unattractive benefits.”

Government departments are further burdened by a notoriously laborious hiring process that often takes months. It is unrealistic to expect that graduates can put off making rent, car, and loan payments for months at a time in order to compete for a job that most likely pays less than the private sector can. 

How will the shortage in public health workers affect us? 

Good question. It will affect every single citizen living in the United States if this problem isn’t solved in the near future, even more so in the Inland Empire, given that so many qualified candidates move to bigger cities in California to work, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, exacerbating the shortages faced in our region. The current shortages make it difficult for departments to handle routine community care, and impossible to mount a surge response like that which would be needed for another pandemic. 

Public health addresses many of the things that make up our communities, things we take for granted. According to the 2022 book, Public Health: “Common public health issues and concerns include environmental quality (clean air, water, and food), sanitation, climate change, health equity, health reform, access to healthcare, tobacco use and exposure, mental health, injury and violence, physical activity, nutrition, obesity, and vaccination.”

The current crisis should be top of mind for all of us, but particularly: 

  • Policymakers who deal with the overall health of their communities and create legislation in the event of public health emergencies
  • Hospitals, which are on the front lines of any public health outbreak or crisis and are dealing with shortages of their own
  • Schools who can look at this as an excellent opportunity to create candidates ripe for positions in an eager market

Solving the Problem with a Coordinated, Regional Effort

It is clear that the diverse Inland Empire needs more highly skilled, cross-culturally competent public health workers. We need to attract them and make it worthwhile for them to stay. 

The good news is that there are ways to accomplish this and many efforts underway to put these ideas into action, but it is a community effort that will take proactivity, collaboration, and deep coordination across organizations like ours, public health departments, universities, and school districts.

1. Expanding Health Pathways Funding

Students don’t necessarily understand what jobs exist in public health, and it is up to those seeking applicants to change this. Private companies attend job fairs and set up tables on campuses during career week, but public health is not usually there. In order to plan for a career, students need to know it exists. They need to understand what the jobs are, what the titles are, and what kind of preparation goes into securing them. They need to know what these jobs pay and what they can expect for their futures if they embark on a career in public health. 

Assembly Bill 1695 – a bill that would provide funding for a Nursing Pathway Program, which would provide an Associates in Nursing from any of California’s community colleges at several schools serving ninth through twelfth graders – is an excellent start.

However, we need similar funding and support for nonclinical pathways including management, administration, and education within the public health field, and we need to expand these into middle schools if we truly want to instill interest early on. Building pathways that increase exposure to career possibilities in public health creates a new generation of motivated and prepared applicants to enter the field. But funding is needed, and programs should start as early as possible in the schools.

2. Enhancing Collaborative, Project-Based Curriculum Design

Our workforce shortage isn’t just a factor of quantity. Equally important to the livelihood of our region’s public health is the quality of candidates we’re attracting and hiring. Public health departments often cite that candidates they’re recruiting – many of whom come from leading public health schools – still are not equipped with all of the soft and hard skill sets needed to excel in a modern public health environment.

Some skill sets traditionally missing in applicants include:

  • Grant writing: since 90% of health departments are funded by grants, writing applications is critical.
  • Budgetary competency: understanding how budgets are built and how to monitor them.
  • Complex data skills: applicants need to know how to mine data for insights and how to turn those insights into actionable strategy to direct limited resources for the most impact.
  • Technology and software: the tools have changed and will continue to evolve. The workforce needs to be adept at learning new tech and implementing it quickly. 
  • Grassroots interactions: with so many applicants having come up through remote education and relying on screens, many are unsure how to connect within their communities.
  • Written communication: training in proper and professional communication is crucial. 
  • Public speaking: the ability to motivate and mobilize groups is important, as is presenting recommendations and findings in order to inspire action. 

By increasing collaboration between public health departments, middle and high school CTE departments, and the schools of public health within our region, up-to-date training can be created to ensure that graduates are ready to step into active roles on day one, and are equipped with the skills needed to add value to a modern public health department. Collaborative, project-based curriculum design is one way to ensure that these programs meet the needs of the schools and also of the public health departments they ultimately funnel to. 

3. Rethinking HR Practices to Fit the New Workforce

Digitizing & Streamlining the Hiring Process

The current process takes far too long and has too many steps to be an effective way to fill critical -need positions. Though government agencies are notoriously slow to move, this is one area where accepting the status quo will cost us immensely, both in the near and long term.

Re-assessing Compensation Packages

The best talent will not settle for lower compensation, and when inflation is at record highs, graduates will not accept less than they would make in the same job in the private sector. The ongoing lack of funding to make salaries competitive continues to deter talent. It is critical that government agencies assess pay in comparison to industry benchmarks, knowing that for many of those who do choose a role in public health, it’s a choice they maintain for life, making them extremely valuable workers. 

More On-the-Job Training & Room for Promotions

Another way to offset the burden those in this field often feel is by investing in on-the-job training to ensure those new to the field can ramp up rapidly. Finally, job pathways must be identified for those who are interested in up-leveling inside the field. Many people leave because they have no upward trajectory.  

4. Addressing the Storytelling Problem in Public Health

Public health is an opportunity that has not been properly represented, especially as a generation rises that has demonstrated a desire to impact the world in a positive way. Students today are more invested in working for the greater good than any generation in recent memory, and public health is a very concrete way to ensure your work life has a real community impact. 

“In public health, we’re not impacting one person,”  Saruwatari noted. “It’s neighborhoods, communities, cities, entire counties.” 

 Saruwatari went on to talk about what inspires her to remain in the field and to do her best to recruit interested graduates to public health: 

“The thing that keeps me going is the desire to really get upstream and get people healthy so we can prevent the chronic diseases that are making them sick and keeping them home, keeping them from doing the things they love. I want Riverside County to be the healthiest county in the country. I want people to move here because they know we have an environment where they’re going to thrive.”

There is a lot of talk about the desire to work in a role that has a real impact on the world, and there is no question that public health offers such a place. For those coming out of corporate positions who have potentially felt empty or less than meaningful, public health makes a great second career. The field is eager for those with experience in tech, management consulting, strategy, marketing, change management, and more. 

The Bottom Line 

We’ve highlighted four major issues contributing to the need within public health, but what we really require is more forums and collaborative groups convening to hammer out the issues and find solutions. Some of this work is taking place, for instance in the Public Health Leadership Consortium led by Reach Out, where we are bringing together public health departments and public health colleges, along with workforce development boards and some funders to discuss how to approach the very real shortages within this critical field. We’re also part of Thrive Inland SoCal, which is discussing this issue along with others impacting our communities and economic development initiatives. 

It’s not enough, though. For this work to have the impact the Inland Empire needs it to have, more funding and more involvement from the K-12 community is needed. In order to build exposure pipelines to attract the bright young minds from within our community to take on this work, this crisis needs to be front of mind for those with the funds to help elevate it. Our kids deserve the awareness that K-12 exposure pipelines bring to the kinds of opportunities available to them, and our communities deserve to have fully staffed public health departments to ensure their well being. 

Without programmatic, coordinated exposure – and the funding required to deliver those programs – we’re one mass outbreak away from a recurrence of 2020, something our region and our people cannot afford. It’s due time – as policymakers, educators, funders, and community leaders – that we recognize the gravity of this challenge, while at the same time, not missing the profound opportunity to set the next generation of health workforce professionals up for success, while revitalizing the face of a profession that is ripe with opportunity to serve and enact change amidst a generation that is searching for an outlet to do so.


To learn more about Reach Out’s Public Health Leadership Consortium and our Work-Based Learning programs, or to inquire about funding initiatives for the public health workforce, contact Dr. Shermineh Davari: shermineh at we-reachout.org


A woman talking to a group of studentrs

The Health Workforce Crisis & Why the IE Needs More Health Pathway Programs in K-12 Schools

The Health Workforce Gap: A Mounting Crisis for the Inland Empire and Beyond

The world, the United States, and especially rural communities and communities of color such as California’s Inland Empire, are facing a health workforce shortage that is only expected to grow worse over the coming decade. While it’s easy to suggest fixes that seem simple (hire more nurses!), this issue is complex and woven through interconnected shortages and inequities that have impacts far beyond the obvious.

The Health Workforce Shortage is Dire

The shortage of qualified healthcare workers will look different in different settings.: 

What Roles are Most In-Demand in the Health Workforce?

There are shortages across the spectrum of healthcare, but what’s important to know is that healthcare encompasses a wide swath of careers beyond doctors and nurses. There is unprecedented demand for physical therapy aides, home health aides, pharmacy techs, phlebotomists, and medical assistants. 

Staff Shortages and Overtime are Unsustainable

It isn’t hard to find evidence of the ongoing crisis in healthcare. This year saw strikes across the industry, with Kaiser Permanente nurses, ER technicians, and pharmacists participated in a three-day strike Oct. 4-6 that resulted in a 21% raise in wages over the next four years. CVS and Walgreens saw a similar walkout with working conditions cited as the cause. In fact, twenty-two separate healthcare strikes were reported this year in the United States, all of them citing staffing and concern for reduced patient care as the reasons.

In California, the situation is worse than in some other parts of the country. A recent report on CapRadio noted “the nation is facing a health care shortage decades in the making, and the situation in California is especially dire. Projections show the state could be short 44,000 registered nurses by 2030. Approximately 35% of physicians in the state are over 60 years old.“

What Caused the Inland Empire’s Health Workforce Shortage? 

Geography is One Part of The Inland Empire’s Health Workforce Problem

The Inland Empire and California’s Central Valley both struggle to train and retain healthcare workers. According to Jeff Oxendine, MPH, MBA, who is a health executive, educator and consultant who founded and runs Health Career Connection (HCC), “The Inland Empire and the Central Valley are two of the fastest growing regions in California. And they are the two areas that have the lowest per capita health workforce. It’s also a challenge to recruit and retain people in these areas that reflect the diversity and language capabilities of these regions.” 

Those born in these regions who ultimately pursue healthcare often leave to choose bigger cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or California to practice. The other issue is that there are simply not as many medical schools and training programs in these regions to produce the workforce needed. 

Repercussions of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Health Workforce

There is no denying the devastating consequences that 2020’s pandemic wrought on those in the healthcare field. Burnout was a very real issue, leading to more healthcare workers leaving the field than at any time in recent memory. The lack of full-time nursing staff led to an increase in competition for traveling nurses, and hospitals without deep pockets or attractive locations could simply not compete with the bonuses and high weekly salaries being offered in other places. 

Reimbursement Declines Exacerbate the Problem

Cliff Daniels, Senior VP / Chief Strategy & Integration Officer at USC Arcadia hospital and the current board chairman for Reach Out noted, “While our costs are rising for hospitals at 12-15% per year, our reimbursement rate rises at maybe zero to two percent per year. You can visualize that graph. It’s unsustainable.” 

Reimbursement is the payment that a hospital, healthcare provider, diagnostic facility, or other healthcare provider receives from insurance plans for providing service. The 1997 Balanced Budget Act (BBA) kicked off an enormous shift in the way Medicare reimbursed healthcare. 

Though the topic of healthcare reimbursement is extremely complex, some studies suggest that “the BBA may have exacerbated the nursing shortage, because nurse workload increased at high and medium Medicare pressure hospitals and, thus, likely increased nurse dissatisfaction and burnout. The BBA may have resulted in slower growth of nurse wages, and existing nurses were unlikely to be compensated for the additional workload. In addition, slower growth in wages makes the field less attractive to new entrants and may have accelerated the use of temporary nurses in hospital settings.”

Balancing Short & Long-Term Solutions to the Health Workforce Shortage

One of the ways the state of California has found to incentivize health workers to stay is by offering various incentives. Jeff says, “Now the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to get people into the pathway to go into those professions and with loan repayment, with scholarships, those kinds of things, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to what the immediate and long-term needs are.” And while reimbursement for school and scholarships certainly work, the funding available isn’t bottomless and these programs ultimately increase the cost of care. At some point, we’ll need a longer-term solution. 

The Future Lies in Training for the Health Workforce

Jeff notes that the two greatest factors influencing where a physician chooses to practice are: where he/she is from, and where he/she does residency. It makes sense then that building more residency programs in underserved areas would help, since this would allow retention of locals who understand the culture and community where they train. 

An additional strategy is to secure more scholarships to fund healthcare education within underrepresented populations. Jeff points out that it’s difficult for those without significant resources to enter healthcare because of the schooling required and the cost associated. This clearly disfavors those from lower income backgrounds, and contributes to the lack of representation many populations see in their healthcare providers. 

That said, there are numerous areas of healthcare that don’t require the years of education or the cost associated with becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, many people who might enter the health workforce in one of these areas aren’t aware that these jobs and the need to fill them exist. 

The Long-Term Solution to the Health Workforce Crisis

The most sustainable and effective solution to the workforce shortage is to begin filling the pipeline earlier. Cliff and Jeff agree that critical exposure to the variety of potential health care careers must occur in middle school. 

Jeff explains, “I’ve assessed these programs for over 20 years now, and the best ones include a combination of academic support and helping with things like study skills and notetaking to help students be successful. Having health career exposure that includes work-based learning, internships, or project work or shadowing” can lead to interest in health careers. 

Why K-12 Health Pathway Programs Work

Jeff and Cliff both talk about the benefits of funneling middle school students into what they call Health Pathways programs, like the work-based learning program and Moving in New Directions program Reach Out offers. It’s been demonstrated that kids who are exposed to careers in the sciences early are more likely to choose careers in those fields. A study in the STEM Education journal notes that:

“exposure of students to STEM careers can enhance their interest in pursuing careers involving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” 

Giving kids the opportunity to understand the full range of available health care careers early gives them more choices as they make decisions about their future through the high school years. This is especially important for kids from diverse backgrounds who may not feel “seen” in the current healthcare system and therefore hadn’t considered the field for themselves. Being exposed not just to a variety of potential careers, but also to a range of professionals within those jobs can change the landscape of what working in healthcare looks like. 

A More Diverse Health Workforce Means Better Care

“California is facing a health workforce crisis. There are not enough health workers to meet the needs of its increasingly diverse, growing, and aging population, and the situation is worsening. Shortages exist across professions and geographies, with sizeable urban and rural underserved populations. Additionally, although the state population is becoming increasingly diverse, the current health workforce doesn’t reflect these demographic shifts. For example, in 2019, 39% of Californians identified as Latinx, but only 14% of medical school matriculants and 6% of active patient care physicians in California were Latinx.” (Source: CA Healthcare Foundation)

Recruiting early and from traditionally underrepresented populations and regions makes sense in other ways too. There is an increasing focus in hospitals on cultural competency, something many healthcare organizations are paying consultants to train. If the makeup of the health workforce more closely matched the population served, there is a potential for better cultural competency without the need to bring in outside consultants to train this. 

Keys to a Successful Health Pathways Program in K-12 Schools

As organizations like Reach Out partner with healthcare organizations and work to counter the effects of the health workforce shortage, one of the critical aspects of curriculum planning will be based on an honest evaluation of current needs. As Dr. Shermineh Davari, Director for Reach Out’s Inland Health Profession Consortium points out, “We need to be innovative and consider what it is now that students actually need. We collect both qualitative and quantitative data through our learning and evaluation department in order to adapt to current needs and provide the best training and services possible.”

Pathways programs must be directly connected to the organizations they feed in order to ensure that their programs are providing training that prepares participants for the evolving requirements of various health professions.  

The Pipeline Cannot Leak

The entire goal of exposing children as early as elementary and middle school to the variety of health care professions is to capture their interest early and then build on that interest as they grow in order to hopefully help them enter the workforce. That means that having a fantastic middle school program isn’t enough. Once a student moves on to high school, the program must be there to continue to support the student’s interest and meet their needs in terms of curriculum and preparation. 

Ideally, this begins with a program like Reach Out’s work-based learning program, which exposes children in middle school and high school to health careers. In college, programs like those offered by Health Career Connection, Jeff Oxendine’s non-profit, expose students to networking opportunities, internships, and training that lead directly to entrance into healthcare fields. When programs like these are supported in diverse communities, they lead directly to a more diverse health workforce. 

“Part of why I focus on health workforce and diversity issues is because everybody wins,” Jeff says. “The health organizations get the qualified diverse employees they need, and people get education, which leads to all kinds of other benefits. It’s an economic development solution.”

Health Pathways Programs Can Solve the Health Workforce Issue

Jeff points out that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to working to build a good health pathway program into schools. Teachers and administrators are burdened enough without having to try to figure out how to create these programs. Instead, he suggests districts partner with existing and proven programs like Reach Out’s work-based learning program. 

“Reach Out is trying in every way we can to provide opportunities and resources for students,” Dr. Davari notes. “Through hands-on direct services for high school students and teachers, providing internships, side visits, bringing in career speakers, and offering coaching, we strive to create hands-on experiences to help bring exposure to health care careers.” 

Reach Out also offers training for Community Health Workers, a career field that Jeff and Cliff agree is gaining in both demand and impact, and is an excellent opportunity for someone entrenched in their community who really wants to make a difference. 

Bringing in a health pathways program is something all school districts in the state of California should be considering to help provide diverse opportunities for their student populations and to help offset the dire health workforce shortage the state is facing. 

For more information about how Reach Out can help build a health pathways program at your school, contact us.

Community Health Worker

The Transformative Role of Community Health Workers

Bridging Gaps in Healthcare Access

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are increasingly essential in providing comprehensive healthcare support in various communities. Their work spans educational outreach, healthcare advocacy, and specialized healthcare programs.

Reach Out trains and employs CHWs throughout the Inland Empire, and hopes to see these critical healthcare workers utilized more widely across the potential spectrum of applications. This post will consider:

  1. Who are community health workers?
  2. The critical importance of trust and cultural literacy for CHWs
  3. The spectrum of a CHWs work
  4. Who is a good fit and how is a CHW trained?

Who Are Community Health Workers?

According to Dr. Shermineh Davari, Director of Reach Out’s Inland Health Profession Consortium Department (IHPC), CHWs are individuals trained to assist their communities with a variety of healthcare issues. Dr. Davari's department, for instance, runs various programs such as work-based learning and mental health advocacy, with a special focus on Community Health Workers. “The goal is to find gaps and remove barriers to provide more equitable access to resources and services within our communities," she explains.

Mayra Mixco, a physician trained in El Salvador, is a program manager at Reach Out focused on the CHW initiatives there. “Community Health Workers inform communities about healthcare issues, help schedule various appointments, and focus on culturally appropriate outreach. They seek to connect as trusted community members, working in community spaces, including churches, consulates, and schools.”

Trust Comes with Cultural Literacy for CHWs

The cornerstone of effective healthcare provision by CHWs is trust. These workers share a cultural, linguistic, and social background with the communities they serve, which makes their role exceptionally vital. From providing healthcare education to serving as navigators and advocates, the CHW’s responsibilities are diverse. After specialized training, they are equipped to provide more equitable and inclusive services.

This trust allows CHWs to battle common myths and misconceptions about conditions and treatments that may exist in certain cultural communities. Mayra quoted a situation where she discovered that some community members believe that the diabetes treatment medication would make them go blind – when that is a risk of the disease itself. “The CHW knows our community, knows our culture, what we believe in, and what we do not believe in. They can actually come, get comfortable, and educate during a casual conversation, dispelling myths and misconceptions as they help access resources.”

The Spectrum of Work: What Do CHWs Do?

The scope of a Community Health Worker's focus can be expansive, varying by setting, healthcare system, and community. They might assist a diabetic patient in understanding their medication and monitoring blood sugar levels. They may also aid in appointment scheduling and running regular tests. 

CHWs go by various names, including health navigators and case managers. No matter the title, their focus remains on providing personalized, culturally sensitive healthcare support.

Who is a Good Fit for a Role as a CHW?

Typically, CHWs begin as individuals already recognized by their communities as trustworthy and proactive—people identified as "doers," "seekers," or "advocates." Mayra emphasizes that those who undergo training to become CHWs already possess a foundational skill set, which gets refined and directed through the program.

Reach Out's Training Programs

Reach Out (and many other organizations) actively train CHWs. We offer an 80-hour training program that not only covers health-related topics but also includes development of interpersonal and communication skills. Following the training, CHWs must complete 40 hours of field experience to get hands-on practice in the community, something Reach Out helps to facilitate.

New Funding Opportunities and Specialization

Funding is now being directed towards expanding the focus of CHWs to areas such as substance misuse. Dr. Davari and Mayra both emphasize that CHWs could play an essential role in de-stigmatizing substance misuse treatment and assisting individuals in recovery. The aim is to adopt a holistic approach, addressing not just the issue of substance misuse but also the factors that may be contributing to it.

Understanding Social Determinants of Health

CHWs are trained to be aware of the broader social determinants that impact health, including socioeconomic status, sexuality, and housing conditions. This knowledge allows them to provide services tailored to individual needs rather than taking a "one size fits all" approach.

The Future of CHWs

Public health departments are increasingly recognizing the importance of CHWs, especially as their services become medically reimbursable. CHWs can assist busy healthcare providers by taking the time to understand patients’ cultural and lifestyle nuances, such as food habits, thus enabling better healthcare outcomes.

CHWs and Reach Out are shaping the future of community healthcare in the Inland Empire by offering a blend of education, trust, and cultural understanding. As this role evolves, their contributions promise to make healthcare more equitable and accessible for everyone – a mission Reach Out shares. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Reach Out’s CHW training, learn more here and sign up!

Give Them the Tools

An innovative program empowers our youth to reclaim their mental health

In recent months, we’ve shared a lot about the state of mental health of the young people in our country and here in the Inland Empire, where Reach Out operates. It’s undoubtedly a crisis, as pointed out by Dr. Rocha in her talk at this year’s National Innovative Communities Conference, and the statistics are chilling. Numbers like these (suicide is the second leading cause of death among those 15 -24 years old; nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide) lead most reasonable people to ask one question: What can we do? 

Reach Out is working hard on the answer to this question, and that work has culminated in the launch of their Intervention Specialist program, currently entering its second year of active work in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District. 

What is an intervention specialist? 

Neither teacher nor staff member, nor technically a therapist, Intervention Specialists are specially trained counselors who staff on-campus wellness centers. These specialists are equipped with a wealth of information and knowledge about the variety of situations that teens might bring into the centers with them, and while they are not licensed therapists, they are trained to refer serious issues to appropriate personnel. 

Sophia Juárez, director of the program for Reach Out, explained the need the wellness centers address in the nine high schools where they are currently active. She explained that during the lockdown period of the pandemic, many youth in the IE experienced isolation, violence, abuse, or grief at home. Many of our kids returned to school dealing with issues they didn’t have the tools to address on their own, and these kinds of big feelings can turn into anger issues, depression, substance abuse, and even violence. 

“Our intervention specialists are there to help them learn to self-soothe and teach them how to manage their anger issues. And this is an opportunity for the kids to go in and learn, where they're given the tools to properly handle their emotions, so then they can go out and navigate in the moment without one of our intervention specialists holding their hand. One of the philosophies I like to use is: we educate them to equip them to empower them.”

Modeling Healthy Adult Relationships

Sophia, along with Intervention Specialist Program Managers Alyssa Montano and Josh Davis, talked about the wellness centers and those who staff them as adults offering the teens on campus a safe space. For some, it may be enough to just come in and sit, taking time to breathe and unwind. “We really work to make the centers welcoming to kids,” Alyssa noted. “We’ll have bean bag chairs and music playing, there are different activities and spaces where kids can read or journal.” 

Not all kids come in ready to unload their issues, and for many of them, trust is a key factor. “The program really puts the power back in the kids’ hands, and we let them know that we’re there if they want to talk, but that they also have the option of just getting a break. In fact, letting a kid who’s clearly struggling know that they don’t have to talk is often the key to unlocking that closed door,” Alyssa said. “Just letting them know they have that opportunity is critical. Especially if they never created a connection with a teacher or a counselor, because their trust in adults may have been broken in the past. We work hard at creating that place for them to just have that space and use it how they'd like to. Most of the time, once trust is established, kids are eager to talk. They need to.”

Sophia agreed, “I say this often to the staff, but this could potentially be the only healthy relationship these kids have with an adult.”

Intervention Specialists See and Hear the Kids of the IE

The heart of this program lies with the intervention specialists themselves. Each specialist goes through a comprehensive training and participates in ongoing training weekly, sharing best practices and key strategies. But beyond training, these are people who really want to make a difference to kids, who really believe in the impact they can have, one life at a time. 

“Sometimes,” Josh Davis noted, “It’s as simple as breathing. Giving a child the means to self-regulate, to know that they’ve got the tools to handle whatever they’re facing, is something that brings joy to these specialists. And beyond that, it’s about letting each individual know that their voice is heard, regardless of their truancy or substance abuse, or whatever issues they’ve got going on. Those issues don’t define them.”  

“We want to focus on letting kids know that their feelings matter, that they matter, and on giving them a safe space and tools to work through some really difficult challenges,” Sophia said. 

Via individualized conversations, a safe space to unwind, and a focus on arming small groups of students struggling with similar issues with tools to address those problems, the intervention specialists are making a real impact on the population of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District. According to last year’s records, more than 1500 members of the student population in the district signed into a wellness center at least once, with a total of more than 5,400 total visits. That’s an astounding amount of impact for a first-year program, and those at the helm of this effort expect to see that number increase. Via focused assessments geared toward generating data about issues and usage, Reach Out is working to build definitive proof that this program changes - and saves - lives. 

The Need is There

There is no question that the need for this type of resource-building intervention is there, and the number of students touched in year one only serves to emphasize that reality. 

“Sadly enough, we see so many things, so many situations come in and out of our wellness centers. But the best part is that we know that what we're doing is potentially impacting these lives long term,” Sophia said. 

And for the kid whose life is impacted for the better? That should be evidence enough that this program is working. 

Still, there are many more kids than there is funding for this program, something Reach Out hopes to help change. “We’d love to see funding for this program to expand to other districts,” Sophia noted. “And we’re working on it.” 

To learn more about the Intervention Specialist program and other efforts Reach Out is making on behalf of the kids of the Inland Empire, click here.

A nurse caring for an older patient

The Complex State of Healthcare in the Inland Empire

A fireside chat with Alison Elsner of the San Bernardino County Medical Society and Ruthy Argumedo of Molina Healthcare

In an insightful and enlightening chat, Reach Out brought two of our key partners together to discuss the issues facing the healthcare sector in our region and to explore how collaboration is making a difference.

Two Caring Individuals, Two Committed Organizations

Alison Elsner, the Executive Director of the San Bernardino County Medical Society, highlighted the shortage of physicians in California, especially in areas with low-income populations. She noted that, in certain places like the Inland Empire, the physician to patient ratio is as low as 1 doctor to every 9,000 patients. For Elsner, tackling this issue calls for collaborative strategies, including legislative advocacy, raising public awareness, and the continued advocacy of the ‘White Coat Program,’ which gives high school students and college students the chance to learn about the varied career paths within the healthcare field.

Ruthy Argumedo, Associate Vice President at Molina Healthcare, echoed Elsner's concerns, emphasizing the role of collaboration in mitigating the problem. According to Argumedo, one of the key challenges lies in recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals in underserved areas. Molina Healthcare's initiative 'Community Connector' aims to bridge this gap by connecting healthcare providers to the community. Argumedo also touched on the importance of wellness programs in improving overall health and addressing systemic issues.

Elsner’s organization represents physicians and advocates for policies to promote equitable patient access. Meanwhile, Argumedo's organization serves over 5.3 million members in 21 states, focusing on communities most vulnerable to health disparities. Argumedo, who has been with Molina for 16 years, works extensively in community engagement and partnerships, striving to address social determinants of health and close gaps in care services.

Both organizations partner with Reach Out to focus on healthcare workforce development, patient advocacy, and closing care gaps through collaboration with one another and with the community.

Reach Out is a Conduit for Collaboration

For both women, collaboration with Reach Out goes back several years, with Argumedo working with the organization for over 15 years. Her partnership started with the Latino Health Collaborative, a group that concentrates on health initiatives and social justice in the Hispanic community. They have expanded to various programs, with Argumedo highlighting the Mamás y Bebés campaign. This eight-week course focuses on mental health for new mothers, providing resources and giving them a voice in their care and in the care of their children.

Elsner highlighted the importance of Reach Out’s work in the Inland Empire and Southern California. Reach Out's commitment to workforce development and creating healthcare career pathways for young people is well aligned with the San Bernardino County Medical Society’s priorities. This shared interest led to a collaboration on the ‘White Coat’ program, which places high school and community college students in physician offices and practice settings to inspire them to pursue healthcare careers.

However, attracting and retaining healthcare professionals in the Inland Empire remains a significant challenge. Argumedo shared that often medical graduates and residents leave the state or shift to other regions due to better financial incentives or personal desires, driven by the significant weight of student loans to be repaid. Elsner also described the growing competition from employee-based medical organizations that can offer more regular hours and greater flexibility for providers. 

Healthcare is a Complex Problem in the IE

The discussion then moved to a critical component in the healthcare equation: the pay that physicians receive, particularly those dealing with Medi-Cal patients. Elsner pointed out the discrepancy in compensation between physicians under Medi-Cal, where reimbursement rates are about 50% of what Medicare offers, and Medicare reimbursements are already low.

Argumedo added another layer to the issue, by emphasizing the need to view it from two perspectives: providers and patients. In areas like San Bernardino and Riverside, both limited access to and fear of healthcare services are prominent. She elaborated that while there might be sufficient healthcare providers in certain regions, including federally qualified health centers, various factors may deter patients from seeking their services. These range from lack of education to fear of immigration raids. She cited instances where people avoided accessing healthcare services, even free ones, due to these concerns.

The problem is not only about having enough providers, but also about educating communities to overcome these barriers and fears. An example Argumedo mentioned was the need for people to understand when it's necessary to visit a provider instead of going to an emergency room.

As Elsner suggested, this is where Reach Out shines. Acting as a bridge between healthcare services and the community, Reach Out assists in educating the community on how to provide for their healthcare needs and benefit from available services to create healthier futures for their families. 

Meeting Basic Community Needs can Alleviate Some Healthcare Pressures

Later in the chat, Argumedo drew attention to the specific needs in communities, such as the need for diapers. Basic items like these can avert preventable emergency room visits and allow healthcare providers to focus their resources where they're most needed. In this way, collaboration plays a critical role in addressing both healthcare and community needs.

Elsner also introduced the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) - early life traumas that have been found to negatively impact physical and mental health into adulthood. Both Argumedo and Elsner highlighted the importance of partnerships with organizations that understand and work towards mitigating ACEs. By focusing on these early experiences, they believe the cycle of healthcare issues can be interrupted, leading to better health outcomes overall.

Mental Health is Critical Too

The importance of mental health was underscored throughout the discussion. Elsner and Argumedo painted a clear picture of the cycle of healthcare shortages and their repercussions, emphasizing how they feed each other on an ongoing basis. Their organizations, alongside others, aim to interrupt this cycle, with mental health support being a crucial aspect of this strategy.

Drawing the conversation to a close, both Elsner and Argumedo stressed the passion and dedication that healthcare providers demonstrate every day. Dealing with complex issues, from language barriers to socio-economic challenges, these providers often find themselves providing more than just medical care.

This in-depth conversation ultimately shed light on the importance of understanding and supporting healthcare providers and the unique challenges they face. Above all, it emphasized that the goal of making a difference in the Inland Empire is a shared one, requiring collaboration and a genuine commitment to change.

Want to see the chat? We’re sharing it on our LinkedIn channel all month. Follow us here


Turning Ideas Into Action

The National Innovative Communities Conference Changes Lives and Communities

What if your community was more than just the place you live? What if it was an active, thriving part of your life, your landscape? What if the community itself inspired your family and neighbors to engage, to live actively, and to collaborate? 

Is it possible for a city to be an active force for betterment in the lives of those who live there? 

If you live in Jurupa Valley, you likely already know the answer. 

In this post, we’ll examine: 

  1. What does it mean to be a healthy city? 
  2. How the NICC conference played a direct role in creating Healthy Jurupa Valley
  3. The upcoming NICC conference in Riverside

What is a Healthy City?

Most people think of cities as non-active entities. We live in them. We work in them. They describe us in some ways, but other than being “from” a place, we don’t always think much about them. 

Reach Out would like to change that. And we have succeeded. Jurupa Valley is a fantastic example of the excellent community initiatives that can be inspired when leaders and community members come together to explore ideas. 

In 2011, the city founders of Jurupa Valley attended our conference and left brimming with ideas to create a city that wasn’t just a place people were “from.” They wanted to integrate community and art, emotional and physical well-being, along with a unifying sense of pride in ownership. And from that inspiration, the first Healthy City in the Inland Empire was born.  

Healthy Jurupa Valley: The Formation of a Healthy City

The overall structure of HJV relies on three distinct, yet interconnected sectors: the City of Jurupa Valley, Reach Out, and Community Leaders and Stakeholders. 

  • The City provides support from the City Council, City Manager and city staff to ensure health is embedded in the deepest layers of the city, and that healthy ideas are heard and acted upon, instead of getting tangled up in red tape. 
  • Reach Out provides the backbone structure for strong fiscal management, fund development, staffing for meetings and events, community and agency connections from work throughout the Inland Empire, and the knowledge and expertise about healthy communities and cross-sectoral collaboration best practices. 

The City of Jurupa Valley and Reach Out form the foundation of Healthy Jurupa Valley. 

  • Community leaders and stakeholders are like the construction crew building on top of the foundation: these are the people with the optimism, heart, and energy that make HJV’s resident-driven visions a reality. 
  • Jurupa Valley is dedicated to the vision of a healthy, thriving city that serves as an inspiration and example for what the power of connectedness can create.

Results of a Successful Healthy City Initiative Are Broad

Every year, Reach Out helps assess the success of the specific initiatives that the five action groups within Healthy Jurupa Valley have set forward as goals for that year. And with few exceptions, goals are met every year. 

Though many normal events and projects were postponed, canceled, or hosted online due to Covid-19, Healthy Jurupa Valley continued to make meaningful engagement with the community a priority, even in 2020. We estimate that HJV efforts reached 13,406 residents throughout the year. Consider the following stats that difficult year:

  • Direct Engagement with Collaborative and Action Team meetings: 450
  • Direct Community Outreach and Engagement through events and drive-thrus: 10,956
  • Indirect Education and Engagement via Social Media and e-Newsletters: 1,500
  • Program Engagement: 500
  • Partners Engaged: 115
  • Residents Served: 13,406
  • Volunteer Hours Served: 945

The results of a dedicated effort toward a healthy community go beyond statistics, however. 

They are visible in the murals painted in local parks, the beautification efforts made at schools, and the little free libraries dotted around town. They can be seen in the small business support offered at regular lunch and learn meetings, and in the vaccine equity efforts made to ensure education and vaccines were offered to all community members. They can also be felt in the ongoing substance abuse awareness efforts and partnerships between community organizations and law enforcement. 

This Year’s Innovative Communities Conference

Healthy Jurupa Valley is a great example of action stemming directly from the discussions engendered at the National Innovative Communities Conference, and we can't wait to see what kinds of measurable outcomes are inspired by this year’s conference, which happened June 13 & 14th at the Riverside Convention Center. 

The agenda included a variety of topics, but will feature keynote speaker Laura Coates, CNN host and Senior Legal Analyst. Attendees also heard from dynamic speakers at informative plenary sessions, including Dr. Somava Stout, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Dr. Cid Pinedo, Chief Executive Officer of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation; Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari; Medical Officer Dr. Geoffrey from Riverside University Health System; Dr. Evita Limon Rocha and more.

Session Topics included: 

  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Mental Health
  • Health Workforce
  • Family Wellness
  • Violence Prevention/Intervention
  • Restorative Justice & Youth Court
  • DEI and Racial Equity
  • Law Enforcement
  • Nonprofit/Community-based Organizations