Charles C. Bullock, the dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at San José State University, and the chair of The Health Trust board, will serve as master of ceremony Jan. 16 as the nonprofit launches its five-year initiative to make Silicon Valley the healthiest region in America for everyone. The event, held at Mexican Heritage Plaza, highlights the work the agency has done in the last five years as well as the focus for the next five years to come.
The nonprofit agency was founded two decades ago with initial funding from the sale of two nonprofit hospitals in the region. The priority has always been to combat health disparities in the Silicon Valley region, with a focus on Santa Clara and northern San Benito counties.
Bullock oversees the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, where many of the programs are focused on graduating students who work in fields that are related to issues The Health Trust is trying to address. They include:
- Health Science
- Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging
- Occupational Therapy
- Social Work
At the Thursday event, Bullock will introduce different segments of the program that includes keynote speaker Dr. Julie Gerberding, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a San José mayoral candidate forum, as well as breakout discussions.
In a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPtH0XEO85o) that will be shown at the launch, Frederick J. Ferrer, the CEO of the Health Trust, discussed some of the successes from recent years as well as the direction in which the nonprofit will be going for the coming years.
“We found a way to increase gardens so people can grow their own food in home gardens, community gardens and even in apartment gardens,” he said, of efforts to provide produce to low-income families.
The agency also continued to provide for Meals on Wheels programs and looked at ways to get senior citizens engaged in their own advocacy. They launched fundraising efforts for HIV/Aids advocacy, including Dining Out for Life and Hike and Bike to engage community support. They provide dental services to children suffering from oral health problems. They also created a program to help homeless and chronically ill populations as Silicon Valley has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States.
“In 2008, when we launched our last five-year plan, our vision was to make Silicon Valley the healthiest region in America – and statistically it is the healthiest,” he said, in a press release. “But statistics don’t tell what is really a tale of two cities. There are too many people in this community who don’t enjoy great wealth and don’t enjoy good health because they don’t have access to fresh produce or healthy places to exercise or services that they need to manage a chronic illness – or a roof over their heads. That’s why our new vision is to make Silicon Valley the healthiest region in American for everyone.”
The Health Trust has pledged to invest $80 million to combat some of the biggest challenges in Silicon Valley for low-income residents. In a press release, they estimate 13 percent of children are living in poverty and many suffer from dental disease, half of adults are overweight or obese, 20,000 adults and youth are homeless, and thousands of older adults are isolated.
Some of the initiatives include:
- Fresh Cart mobile produce vendors and a Healthy Corner Stores marketing campaign to encourage consumption of healthy foods
- Pay for Success projects that use private sector financing to support money-saving answers to expensive problems such as homelessness and severe mental illness
- Aging Well Network Hubs that will connect older adults and their families to the information, services and relationships they need to thrive in their neighborhoods
Ferrer said the new five-year plan will continue the commitment started in 2008 to the same priorities. The three new initiatives, Healthy Living, Healthy Eating and Healthy Aging, will build on the organization’s signature policy and programmatic work, such as AIDS Services, Meals On Wheels and the community water fluoridation campaign, while moving toward more entrepreneurial funding strategies.
“At The Health Trust we believe that Silicon Valley, a community where innovation is changing the world, also can be a community where innovation improves the lives of all residents,” Ferrer said.
For more on The Health Trust, visit http://healthtrust.org/