Our latest round of grants supports direct services, advocacy, and community power-building, with a focus on immigrant and Native American communities.
August 19, 2022—The California Wellness Foundation today announced $16.8 million in grants and $1 million in impact investments awarded in the second quarter of 2022 to advance health equity in California.
The foundation awarded 73 grants across its four Advancing Wellness portfolios, focusing on a wide range of issues including diversity in the health care workforce, intertribal and intergenerational Native American power-building, and expanding access to health care in immigrant communities across California. The impact investment went to DREAMers Education Financing Trust, which provides graduate student loans to Dreamers, who are ineligible for federal student loans and most other financing sources.
“The foundation made a number of significant investments during the quarter, and we awarded two $1 million grants, which is not typical for us,” said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness president and CEO. “I’m also proud to see the number of grants supporting Native American communities, an area where Cal Wellness, along with most of philanthropy, has lagged. Given this history of underinvestment, we are committed to doing more.”
Building Power in Native American Communities
California is home to nearly one-sixth of the nation's Native American population. Whether they are living in rural, suburban or urban communities, they often experience severe disparities in health outcomes and access to care. As part of the Leading for Power and Change portfolio, Cal Wellness awarded four grants totaling $1.65 million to support Native power building for healthy, powerful and culturally thriving Native communities.
This grant cycle included a $1 million investment in the California Native Vote Project. This statewide effort has the potential to make significant impact. California Native Vote Project engages Native American communities across dozens of counties to build political power through an integrated voter engagement strategy. This core operating support grant will help them mobilize, advance health and racial equity, and hold public and private sector leaders and policymakers accountable for improving the health of Native American communities.
Native Americans report experiencing serious psychological distress 2.5 times more than the general population. Grantees will create safe spaces for Native people to come together, heal and thrive through ceremony, traditions and cultural connection.
The California Indian Basketweavers Association will preserve and promote California Indian basketweaving traditions while providing a healthy physical, social, spiritual and economic environment for Native basket weavers. The Cultural Conservancy Sacred Land Foundation will protect and restore Indigenous cultures, and advance wellness though opportunities to gather and foster community connection, storytelling, and traditional artistic expressions. The Intertribal Friendship House will provide safe spaces for urban and suburban Native Americans living in the Bay Area to fortify their cultural identity, promote health and strengthen extended family.
Prioritizing Health and Equity in Immigrant Communities
The COVID-19 health and economic crises hit California’s immigrant communities especially hard, exacerbating an already tenuous situation. With this round of grants, we supported organizations working with a wide array of immigrant communities, from Sudanese refugees in San Diego to indigenous Mexican migrants in Oxnard to Chinese immigrants in San Francisco. We awarded 11 grants across our four portfolios totaling more than $2.2 million.
To improve the economic security and dignity of refugees and immigrants in San Diego County, the Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego is building a multiethnic coalition that will provide immigrant entrepreneurs with linguistically and culturally tailored business development training, technical assistance, and small business grants. The Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project and La Familia Sana will provide basic needs assistance to undocumented individuals and their families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Central Coast and the Sonoma County, respectively.
The South Asian Network will increase its organizational capacity and its efforts to advance the health, emotional and mental well-being, and civil rights of South Asians in Southern California. The Chinese Progressive Association will help to develop the leadership of low-income and working-class immigrant Chinese workers so they can demand better living and working conditions and equitable recovery policies in the greater Bay Area.
Diversifying Medicine to Increase Health Equity
As part of the Economic Security & Dignity grantmaking portfolio, Cal Wellness awarded three core operating support grants totaling $1.8 million dollars to organizations that are preparing underrepresented minority students for careers in medicine. A more diverse health care workforce will increase health equity, decrease health disparities, and ultimately provide better medical care for all.
Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos comprise fewer than 14 percent of practicing physicians in California. Our grantee, the Foundation for California Community Colleges with its partner California Medicine, will leverage its $1 million grant to build a pipeline of diverse physicians, especially primary care doctors.
Multiple systemic barriers prevent students of color from entering the health care field including racial discrimination, high cost, and lack of mentorship. The Physicians Medical Forum will use its grant to encourage and support African American and other underrepresented minority students in pursuing, accessing admission to and completing medical school.
Black, Latino, and other minority physicians tend to set up practice in medically underserved areas and treat minority patients more frequently. The University of California, Merced will use its grant to focus on enrolling minority students, in particular Central Valley students, into their brand-new medical program. The Central Valley, where the university is located, experiences some of the worst health outcomes in the state while having fewer doctors compared with other regions. These UC Merced students will do their clinical training at regional centers with a rural focus and will work with marginalized, rural and underserved populations.
Investing in Dreamers and Their Graduate Education
This quarter, Cal Wellness made a $1 million program related investment in the DREAMers Education Financing Fund, a national fund that provides student loans for Dreamers (undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children) pursuing graduate degrees. California is home to some 343,000 Dreamers–29 percent of the nation’s total–and they currently struggle to obtain scholarships, affordable loans or financial aid, which limits their educational aspirations and their economic advancement. The DREAMers Fund expects to give 200-300 loans annually and 8 percent of those loans will go to California Dreamers pursuing health-related degrees.
“For young people pursuing medical education or graduate degrees in other fields, cost is frequently a systemic barrier,” said Lori A. Cox, vice president of programs. “This is especially the case for underrepresented minority students and those who are undocumented. Cal Wellness will continue to prioritize grants and program-related investments that help overcome these barriers that stand in the way of equity.”