California is blessed to have more schools and programs of public health than most states in the nation (and more than most countries), providing a vast array of undergraduate and graduate degrees of public health, scholarly research and community service activities. Yet currently no formal mechanism exists to allow for collaboration among the 31 SPPH, information sharing on research, curriculum and practice-based internships, nor to provide a “bully-pulpit” platform for advocating for population-level health, particularly for the state’s structurally vulnerable populations.
At the request of Dr. Bob Ross, President of The California Endowment, in 2016 Berkeley Public Health (BPH) began engaging over 30 of its academic colleagues across the state along with leading foundations working in the public health space in an important conversation about how we work together as a network of research, education and philanthropic institutions to reduce health disparities for low-income people and communities of color.
Through a series of in-depth key stakeholder interviews conducted in 2018, we asked, “How could SPPH be a greater force for accelerating progress on health equity in California if they were able to develop a common vision, leverage the strengths and assets of individual schools for a common set of goals and actions, and increase coordination?”
BPH dean Michael Lu, MD, MPH, has convened his fellow SPPH deans, directors and chairs in California to discuss topics of common interest and concern. In light of the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable populations in California, the effects of the pandemic on public health training and education, and the Black Lives Matter movement calls for racial justice, in 2020 Dean Lu began organizing monthly SPPH meetings to share best practices, problem-solve together, and take collective action. This learning and action network has been co-hosted by Dean Lu’s CSU counterpart, with robust attendance from all three systems – UCs, CSUs and private universities (see below for list of 31 public health deans, directors, and chairs who have participated in the meetings).
Agenda topics have included:
- Best practices in remote instruction—quality online teaching in the time of COVID
- Developing anti-racism action-plans — How can we become anti-racist institutions and systems in our pedagogy and practices?
- Health Policy Advocacy – Elevating our Collective Voice to Influence Policy in Sacramento
- Taking collective action for public health — What can we do together that we can’t do as individual faculty members or schools/programs?
- Formalizing our work — How would a CA-SPPH association be governed, managed, funded and sustained over time?