Decades of public health research has shown that wealth is the strongest factor that influences health, but many Southern Californians face barriers to achieving financial security. For health funders like The California Wellness Foundation, investing our resources in efforts to reduce income inequality is one strategy to improve the health of low-income communities.
Foundations can make grants to organizations that integrate asset building strategies into health and human service programs. Financial coaching, credit repair and guidance in building savings can help families regain a stable economic footing. In Oakland, the Brilliant Baby program uses a two-generation approach to fighting poverty by offering financial coaching to low-income women through home visiting programs.
Foundations can also fund organizations that advocate for improved wages and benefits, including living wage campaigns. We’ve funded organizations like California Food Policy Advocates in Los Angeles to advocate for improved access to CalFresh and other public benefit programs.
And we can use our own voice to speak out when government loses sight of how policies impact families. For Cal Wellness, this recently meant providing public comment on the proposed changes to “public charge” rules that would have forced immigrant families to make difficult choices between meeting basic needs and keeping their families together in the United States.
While these strategies are important and can make real differences in the lives of those living in poverty in Southern California, we won’t be able to make long-lasting change without tackling structural inequalities tied to factors like race. Philanthropy can also play an important role here, if our boards of directors and my fellow CEOs are willing to engage in challenging conversations.