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Our Story

The big moments in our foundation’s life.

When we began grantmaking in 1992, we were California’s largest health conversion foundation. Why? In part, because activists fought for a fairly valued endowment when Health Net converted from a nonprofit to a for-profit insurance plan. Over the years, we have taken on some of the most contentious issues of our time, all focused on advancing health and wellness for underserved people. Our earliest efforts connected public health and gun violence prevention, and supported teen pregnancy prevention, healthy working conditions and place-based grantmaking that took a broader view of health.

Today, we support organizations working to increase access to health care, quality education, good jobs, and clean and safe neighborhoods across our state.

Here are some of our key moments, starting now, and going back 25 years.

2020-2021: Looking Ahead

We sought to be a leader in 2020, and inspire peer foundations to stretch as well, because addressing racism and structural inequities requires each and every one of us. Learn more in this blog.

Man holds hand in the air, holding "Let Us Live" sign
2020: Rapid Response Grantmaking

COVID-19 pandemic and widescale uprising for racial justice leads to more than $14 million in rapid response grantmaking.

red arrow pointing up
2019: New Payout Policy

Our board approves a new payout policy allowing for increase from 5 - 6% disbursement, plus mechanism for special distribution.

A man and woman take notes
2018: Surpassed $1 Billion in Grants

Since 1992, we have awarded over 9,000 grants totaling $1 billion+. We’re honored to have partnered with incredible organizations, leaders, and coalitions to advance the health and wellness of Californians.

Portrait of a mature brazilian woman outdoors
2018: Established Initiatives to Improve Health of Women of Color

We launched two initiatives: one to specifically address the health challenges facing African American and Latina women, and the other to improve the chances that formerly incarcerated women can rebuild their lives.

Man gives woman an injection in a medical setting
2017: Launched the Advance & Defend Campaign

When extreme political and social divisions threatened our collective wellness, we jumped into action. We committed to deploy all of our resources, from our grantmaking dollars, to convening power, to raising our voices, to advance and defend wellness.

Hope and Heal Fund logo
2016: Generated Solutions to Gun Violence

Building upon our legacy of work in gun violence prevention, after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA, we hosted the Enough! Summit to generate solutions to gun violence. The Hope and Heal Fund was born out of this summit.

Judy Belk image
2014: Appointed Judy Belk President & CEO of the Foundation

Judy Belk joined Cal Wellness, bringing more than 25 years of senior management experience in the philanthropic, government, nonprofit and corporate sectors.

Woman holds baby up to camera
2010: Invested in the Affordable Care Act in California

We began to invest significant funds to support successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California.

High school students are discussing against window.
1998: Spotlighted Teen Pregnancy

We launched “Get Real About Teen Pregnancy,” a multimedia public education campaign aimed at building support for policies to reduce teen pregnancy.

Man breaks cigarette in two
1994: Public Education Grant Helped Defeat Tobacco Measure

Through a $4 million public education grant, we helped defeat a measure that would have severely weakened controls on tobacco.

Young people hold up signs at rally against gun violence.
1994: Launched 10-Year Campaign on Handgun Violence Education

We started the California Peace Prize to honor individuals working to prevent violence and promote peace in their communities.

Rally sign against gun violence
1993: First Major Grant Program Focused on Preventing Violence

We committed $30 million over six years, applying a public health approach to disease as our model to address the epidemic of gun violence.

Highway with "start" text
1992: We Opened Our Doors When Health Net Converted

Our foundation was established when Health Net, one of the state’s largest health care and insurance providers, converted from nonprofit to for-profit status.

Photo credit: Photos 9, 10: Greg Bartlett @shinyfilms

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