“This program was developed to address the findings of a local needs assessment to provide solutions to the challenges that youth, families, and communities face on the Central Coast of California. At the same time, the interventions also have value for the state, nation, and world. In this way, our work focuses on developing models to evaluate local interventions and then assist other organizations in implementing similar interventions. We focus on the creation of innovative and effective interventions, policy-relevant research, and educational trainings to address the following major goals: 1) Increasing health equity in marginalized communities, 2) Improving food security and safety for food insecure residents, and, 3) Promoting economic prosperity in low-income communities. While these efforts positively address several public values, the connecting thread across all of our efforts is the pursuit of an inclusive and equitable society. Our award-winning, multicultural, and multilingual team truly understands the culture, needs, and strengths of the people in the communities where we work. With this amazing team, dedicated volunteers, passionate student leaders and community-based organizations, we have transformed the UC Cooperative Extension programs in our communities. I am proud of the interventions we developed that integrate health education with community engagement, knowing this work improves equity for marginalized populations.” ~ Dr. Katherine Soule
Collectively, this research and education program contributes to the UC ANR public value: promoting a more inclusive and equitable society. Research indicates that health is influenced at multiple levels and is most likely to be affected when interventions address multiple levels— e.g. individual, family, environmental, policy (Healthy People 2020). Our research and creative activities provided a wide-range of health-focused interventions, targeting multiple levels of influence in marginalized communities. In the United States, there is a 7-year difference in life expectancy between racial and ethnic groups (NCHS, 2016). The American Public Health Association (2020) explains that health “inequities often stem from structural racism or the historical disenfranchisement and discrimination of particular marginalized groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income populations, and members of the LGBTQ community. These groups have historically been withheld from obtaining resources that are needed to be healthy.” In 2020, health inequities will cost an anticipated to cost $126 billion in excess medical expenses in the United States, as well as billions more in lost productivity (Berger 2015). Beyond the fiscal impact, another way to consider the public value of this program is to examine whether interventions have long term impacts on reducing community health disparities and increasing life expectancy. Over time, as these programs increase health equity and advocacy in the targeted, we anticipate that we will see an increase in life expectancy for those living in our communities. As these program models are implemented across the nation, there is great potential for increased fiscal savings and increased health equity for marginalized populations.