Health Equity
Impact Report

2021-2022

Health Equity
Impact Report

2021-2022

Welcome

The idea behind Heluna Health is remarkably simple: all people deserve to lead healthy lives; if they need care and they are of limited means, they should have the same access to quality services and accurate information as anyone else. Enhancing the health, wellness, and resilience of the communities we serve is our mission, and for more than 50 years, we have been hard at work on that goal.

I continue to be inspired by Heluna Health every single day. Through our direct service programs and the partners that we support, our efforts this year have helped so many people, despite continuing and new health challenges that our communities face.
One of our major achievements in the 2021-2022 fiscal year was rolling out COVID-19 testing in hundreds of schools throughout Los Angeles County. In this impact report, you will read about how we launched and administered this program for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The logistical challenges of this rapid scale up were numerous, but we met them all; building on this achievement, we assumed the administration of COVID-19 testing in most Los Angeles County schools for 2022-23.
To continue making progress in health equity and to better serve our communities, Heluna Health is helping prepare the next generation of dedicated population health workers. This report spotlights doula (or birth attendant) training provided by three of our current program partners—two in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one in Southern California. With legislation in California recently authorizing Medi-Cal to cover doula services, this type of care for expecting parents will become more accessible in the years ahead. Our partner doula programs are increasing a diverse pipeline of these important healthcare workers. We also feature a story on internship programs offered by Heluna Health, including through our Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and in partnership with a variety of academic institutions. These programs, which train college, graduate, and medical school students and public health workers who want to expand their skillsets, are our investment in the future.
Finally, we are delighted to feature in this report our collaboration with Lalo Alcaraz, a nationally syndicated and award-winning cartoonist, who is enabling Heluna Health to introduce culturally appropriate content through an artistic lens. Lalo’s ability to connect with the populations we serve is helping us to reach people in different ways by contributing his talent to new Heluna Health projects.
Every day, we are seeking to enhance the availability of equitable care and resources across the population health spectrum. I am confident that with the help of our supporters and the creative energy, expertise, and determination of our teams, we will expand proven methods and introduce new, evidence-based interventions so that we can successfully address the social determinants of health and improve the quality of life for those who live in the communities we serve.

President and
Chief Executive Officer

Blayne Cutler, MD, PhD

President and
Chief Executive Officer
Blayne Cutler, MD, PhD

The idea behind Heluna Health is remarkably simple: all people deserve to lead healthy lives; if they need care and they are of limited means, they should have the same access to quality services and accurate information as anyone else. Enhancing the health, wellness, and resilience of the communities we serve is our mission, and for more than 50 years, we have been hard at work on that goal.

I continue to be inspired by Heluna Health every single day. Through our direct service programs and the partners that we support, our efforts this year have helped so many people, despite continuing and new health challenges that our communities face.
One of our major achievements in the 2021-2022 fiscal year was rolling out COVID-19 testing in hundreds of schools throughout Los Angeles County. In this impact report, you will read about how we launched and administered this program for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The logistical challenges of this rapid scale up were numerous, but we met them all; building on this achievement, we assumed the administration of COVID-19 testing in most Los Angeles County schools for 2022-23.
To continue making progress in health equity and to better serve our communities, Heluna Health is helping prepare the next generation of dedicated population health workers. This report spotlights doula (or birth attendant) training provided by three of our current program partners—two in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one in Southern California. With legislation in California recently authorizing Medi-Cal to cover doula services, this type of care for expecting parents will become more accessible in the years ahead. Our partner doula programs are increasing a diverse pipeline of these important healthcare workers. We also feature a story on internship programs offered by Heluna Health, including through our Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and in partnership with a variety of academic institutions. These programs, which train college, graduate, and medical school students and public health workers who want to expand their skillsets, are our investment in the future.
Finally, we are delighted to feature in this report our collaboration with Lalo Alcaraz, a nationally syndicated and award-winning cartoonist, who is enabling Heluna Health to introduce culturally appropriate content through an artistic lens. Lalo’s ability to connect with the populations we serve is helping us to reach people in different ways by contributing his talent to new Heluna Health projects.
Every day, we are seeking to enhance the availability of equitable care and resources across the population health spectrum. I am confident that with the help of our supporters and the creative energy, expertise, and determination of our teams, we will expand proven methods and introduce new, evidence-based interventions so that we can successfully address the social determinants of health and improve the quality of life for those who live in the communities we serve.

OUR MISSION

Heluna Health enhances the health, wellness,
and resilience of every community we serve

OUR Vision

Healthy, strong
communities for all

OUR Values

HELUNA HEALTH OVERVIEW

Heluna Health provides innovative services and evidence-based programs that improve the overall health and well-being of our communities.

At Heluna Health, population health is personal. Through our partnerships and direct service population health programs, Heluna Health is leading the effort to eliminate health disparities for people living in vulnerable circumstances and creating change in systems and policies to improve health outcomes in every community we serve. For more than 50 years, Heluna Health has worked together with nonprofit and community-based organizations, public health agencies, healthcare systems, providers, and policymakers to strengthen health interventions and create equitable access to preventive services, primary care, nutrition, housing, early literacy resources, and more.

OUR Values

HELUNA HEALTH OVERVIEW

Heluna Health provides innovative services and evidence-based programs that improve the overall health and well-being of our communities.

At Heluna Health, population health is personal. Through our partnerships and direct service population health programs, Heluna Health is leading the effort to eliminate health disparities for people living in vulnerable circumstances and creating change in systems and policies to improve health outcomes in every community we serve. For more than 50 years, Heluna Health has worked together with nonprofit and community-based organizations, public health agencies, healthcare systems, providers, and policymakers to strengthen health interventions and create equitable access to preventive services, primary care, nutrition, housing, early literacy resources, and more.

Heluna Health

PARTNERS

Heluna Health works with and supports a wide range of population health partners so they can better achieve their goals. We lead and manage public health projects as a comprehensive fiscal sponsor or fiscal intermediary on behalf of academic researchers, government agencies, nonprofit partners, community-based organizations, and public-private consortia. We provide a range of financial, administrative, and operational support services, including human resources and contracts and grants management, so that our partners can concentrate on helping people in need. Serving more than 500 health and social service projects across the U.S. each year, we are increasing our partners’ capacity and raising their visibility so that together we can move the needle on health equity.

Heluna Health

PARTNERS

Heluna Health works with and supports a wide range of population health partners so they can better achieve their goals. We lead and manage public health projects as a comprehensive fiscal sponsor or fiscal intermediary on behalf of academic researchers, government agencies, nonprofit partners, community-based organizations, and public-private consortia. We provide a range of financial, administrative, and operational support services, including human resources and contracts and grants management, so that our partners can concentrate on helping people in need. Serving more than 500 health and social service projects across the U.S. each year, we are increasing our partners’ capacity and raising their visibility so that together we can move the needle on health equity.

Heluna Health

DIRECT

Heluna Health works directly in local communities to implement evidence-based, innovative population health programs that address social, environmental, and economic conditions that undermine health equity. We provide essential breastfeeding and nutrition services, early literacy interventions, maternal support, disease prevention, and youth empowerment initiatives to improve health and life outcomes. Building on decades of expertise in public health research, Heluna Health shares resources to enhance health security and community preparedness.

Heluna Health

DIRECT

Heluna Health works directly in local communities to implement evidence-based, innovative population health programs that address social, environmental, and economic conditions that undermine health equity. We provide essential breastfeeding and nutrition services, early literacy interventions, maternal support, disease prevention, and youth empowerment initiatives to improve health and life outcomes. Building on decades of expertise in public health research, Heluna Health shares resources to enhance health security and community preparedness.

Heluna Health

PATHWAYS

Meeting the needs of population health and social service workers and their clients involves training workers to learn new skills and expand their knowledge. In addition to web-based training resources offered to clients, Heluna Health is developing on-demand training and certificate services for key cohorts of the population health/social service workforce, starting with Community Health Workers (CHWs) in California. The program is designed for CHWs who provide case management, engagement, health coaching, navigation, employment services, and outreach in clinical, community-based, and social service organizations. Heluna Health is also building a diverse pipeline of population health leaders by expanding public health internships and practicum experiences. We partner with academic institutions across the country to offer opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds through our direct service and partner programs. Heluna Health is committed to providing professional pathways for a community-connected health workforce that plays a critical role in advancing health equity.

Heluna Health

PATHWAYS

Meeting the needs of population health and social service workers and their clients involves training workers to learn new skills and expand their knowledge. In addition to web-based training resources offered to clients, Heluna Health is developing on-demand training and certificate services for key cohorts of the population health/social service workforce, starting with Community Health Workers (CHWs) in California. The program is designed for CHWs who provide case management, engagement, health coaching, navigation, employment services, and outreach in clinical, community-based, and social service organizations. Heluna Health is also building a diverse pipeline of population health leaders by expanding public health internships and practicum experiences. We partner with academic institutions across the country to offer opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds through our direct service and partner programs. Heluna Health is committed to providing professional pathways for a community-connected health workforce that plays a critical role in advancing health equity.

Heluna Health

ADVISORS

Heluna Health has assembled a diverse team of professional and academic experts, and those with valuable lived experience, who are passionate about promoting equitable health outcomes. Our network of public health professionals and affiliated consultants offers decades of experience and trusted relationships working with hundreds of community-based population health and social service organizations. By utilizing the expert advice and consultation, technical assistance, and collaborative partnership opportunities of our team, organizations can better reach their goals, and the members of the communities they serve can lead healthier lives.

Heluna Health

ADVISORS

Heluna Health has assembled a diverse team of professional and academic experts, and those with valuable lived experience, who are passionate about promoting equitable health outcomes. Our network of public health professionals and affiliated consultants offers decades of experience and trusted relationships working with hundreds of community-based population health and social service organizations. By utilizing the expert advice and consultation, technical assistance, and collaborative partnership opportunities of our team, organizations can better reach their goals, and the members of the communities they serve can lead healthier lives.

Heluna Health

INSIGHTS

Over more than 50 years, Heluna Health has built a knowledge base, conducted research and data analysis, and developed partnerships that have generated valuable information and insights. Even so, the concept of health equity and the benefits of population health are not always widely understood. To build healthy, strong communities for all, Heluna Health has expanded its communications efforts to provide information for community leaders and policy makers that can better elucidate key topics in population health. We also have many inspiring stories to tell, highlighting the impact of our work and that of our partners. Besides our new annual impact report, first released last year, we are launching a branded series of data briefs and short reports related to important findings in population health. The information provided will be a valuable resource for the Heluna Health community and beyond.

Heluna Health

INSIGHTS

Over more than 50 years, Heluna Health has built a knowledge base, conducted research and data analysis, and developed partnerships that have generated valuable information and insights. Even so, the concept of health equity and the benefits of population health are not always widely understood. To build healthy, strong communities for all, Heluna Health has expanded its communications efforts to provide information for community leaders and policy makers that can better elucidate key topics in population health. We also have many inspiring stories to tell, highlighting the impact of our work and that of our partners. Besides our new annual impact report, first released last year, we are launching a branded series of data briefs and short reports related to important findings in population health. The information provided will be a valuable resource for the Heluna Health community and beyond.

By the numbers (2021-2022)

817
Sub agreements processed with a total value of $1.1 billion
500 +
Projects
981
New employees hired
33 %
Increase in net assets from prior fiscal year

8-15%

Indirect rate for contracts

99 %
Grant Renewal

Spotlight Stories

Learn more about some of our partners and direct service programs working to improve health outcomes in our communities.

Spotlight Stories

Learn more about some of our partners and direct service programs working to improve health outcomes in our communities.

Answering the Call for COVID Testing in Schools

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In summer 2021, with COVID-19 cases at a relative ebb and schools eager to reopen for the first time in more than a year, an official with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) contacted Peter Dale, Chief Program Officer for Heluna Health, with an urgent request. California and L.A. County already had contracts with Heluna Health, primarily to help with contact tracing, staffing, and COVID-19 vaccination support, and now the county wanted Heluna Health to take the lead in supporting the administration of testing in private and independent schools. With the start of the school year only a few weeks away, Dale accepted the challenge, even though there were many unknowns.
“First, we had to understand the population and what the county had already done,” Dale says. “How often did schools need testing? What kinds of tests? Would we be supporting on-site testing or would schools be conducting the tests themselves? Would we be allocating funds to schools? Where would we get the test kits?” For every answer, there seemed to be two more questions.
With years of experience in program design, development, management, procurement, and implementation, Heluna Health leveraged its strengths to build the team, acquire the resources, and create a system from scratch to meet this public health need.
One of Dale’s first steps was to hire Katherine Churchwell as project manager. Churchwell was working on a mental health project for youth in the county and thought it would be inspiring to be part of the effort to prevent and control COVID-19 while helping develop her leadership skills. A big challenge was learning about the project while it was being created, with testing set to begin two weeks after she started. “I actively asked questions and actively listened,” she says.
“We hired contractors for on-site testing and quickly found suppliers for both rapid antigen and PCR tests,” says Dale, who was able to source tests even while they were in container ships at sea. “We built project management and administrative support for school outreach, and found a testing and software platform to track all test results. We were flying the plane while it was being built.”
Pressure soon mounted, because as schools reopened, the number of students testing positive for COVID-19 began to rise. The program was voluntary, and by November 2021, about 60 schools had signed up. But as COVID cases continued to increase, more schools opted in, so that by January 2022, Heluna Health was providing the administrative management for testing at 200 schools. Once the Omicron variant caused a spike in cases, more schools signed up, so that by the end of the school year, Heluna Health was supporting 370 schools.
Los Angeles County officials appreciated Heluna Health’s ability to surface solutions to barriers and act quickly. When the school year ended, Dale received another call from the county. This time, an administrator asked whether Heluna Health could take on testing for all schools during summer and for the following school year—a total of 1,200 schools.
What’s gratifying for Dale and the team is the impact they have made, beyond just getting the job done. Any time a test came back positive and the infected student was quarantined, the team knew that they were helping to protect other students and family members, having a ripple effect in keeping people healthy across the county.
Edith Hernandez, COVID-19 School Testing Program Manager with the LADPH Education Sector Exposure Management Unit, says that the success of the COVID-19 school testing program in the county “is largely due to our partnership with Heluna Health. For schools, having to create and manage a COVID-19 testing program, in addition to their existing educational responsibilities, was understandably overwhelming during the 2021-22 school year. Heluna Health built a system that ensured schools had the resources they needed to successfully implement COVID-19 testing programs and provided excellent customer support to the participating schools and youth programs.”
“I’m very lucky to have a team that’s always willing to help out and a boss who is so calm under pressure,” Churchwell says. Adds Dale, “We have an excellent project team with strong cohesion. There’s a lot of communication involved in making this work. We picked the right people.”

370

schools with COVID testing sites*

560,000

COVID-19 tests conducted**

*Through 6/24/2022
**From 9/1/2021 to 6/24/2022

COVID-19 TEST POSITIVITY BY MONTH

COVID-19 tests conducted and positive tests identified over the 2021-2022 school year in schools monitored by Heluna Health.
“LADPH turned to Heluna Health to support the large-scale, federally-funded School-Based COVID-19 Testing program in K-12 schools. Initially, LADPH asked us to assist schools in reopening safely for in-person instruction by designing, implementing, and managing opt-in, on-site testing for teachers, staff, and students at an estimated 700 private and independent schools across Los Angeles County. Heluna Health rose to the occasion and responded quickly with solutions as a trusted, long standing LADPH partner in serving our communities.”

Peter Dale

Chief Program Officer,
Heluna Health

“We have a helpline for registering kids, and the phone was ringing off the hook with calls from parents and school administrators.”

Katherine Churchwell

Project Manager,
Heluna Health

“Heluna Health’s COVID-19 school testing program played a critical role in ensuring that schools remained safe and healthy environments.”

Edith Hernandez

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Doing Right by Doulas

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Jezreel “Jazz” De Cohen had never considered becoming a doula: a trained professional in providing physical, emotional, and informational support to expecting mothers through the birthing process (including the prenatal, perinatal, and post-partum periods). As someone who had experienced domestic violence and homelessness, living out of her car and shelters, it took enough to survive, let alone try to help others. But after she delivered her third child at a birthing center with a midwife, following two hospital deliveries that she calls traumatic, she realized that helping other women navigate their pregnancies and births with this type of care and support was her calling.
“During my first delivery, I knew what I wanted and how to advocate for myself, but the color of my skin was a hindrance for others,” says De Cohen. Like many other Black women, De Cohen says that she was mistreated at the hospital, and her wishes ignored, because of her race. “I didn’t have care and support,” she says.
During her third delivery at the birthing center in Arcadia, California, the staff listened to her. The director of the center, Chemin Pérez, recognized that De Cohen had the intelligence, compassion, and other qualities to succeed in the maternal care field, and suggested she consider becoming a midwife. De Cohen eventually enrolled in a six-week doula training program offered by Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance (HMHBA), a Los Angeles-area doula provider and one of Heluna Health’s partner programs. Its executive director, Cordelia Hanna, was impressed by De Cohen and offered her a scholarship, later hiring her as a doula. De Cohen recently launched a doula business called Wisdoms Doula Services. She is currently enrolled in a midwifery school, will be working soon at New Life Midwifery, the Arcadia birthing center, and hopes to become a licensed midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
“Look at where Jazz is now,” says Hanna. “She’s going to touch so many lives.”
Data from the National Vital Statistics System showed that in 2020, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women.1 Doulas have been shown to improve birth outcomes, including reducing the chances of preterm births.2 Until recently, few health plans have covered doula services, shutting out many low-income people. But that lack of coverage recently changed in California, when a state law known as the “Momnibus Act” took effect. As of January 1, 2023, doula services are now covered under Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid.
“There has been a flourishing of doula programs, which provided a different energy that applied pressure” on the legislature, says Dr. Zea Malawa, one of the experts who advocated for Momnibus, and Director of Expecting Justice, a San Francisco-based, Black-led collaborative and partner program of Heluna Health that offers doula training. “There’s so much racism toward birthing people in hospitals,” Malawa says. “The state responded to research that shows that doulas save Black mothers’ lives, Black mothers want it, and because of economic racism, many families can’t afford it.”
One outcome from the Momnibus law is that the need for trained doulas from Black, Brown, and Native American/Pacific Islander communities, where birth disparities are greatest, is certain to increase. Patients often report that they relate best to doulas who share their ethnic and racial background. So organizations that train doulas, such as Expecting Justice, HMHBA, and SisterWeb, a San Francisco-based doula service that is also a Heluna Health partner, focus on training doulas from the communities they serve, typically Black, Latina/o/x, and/or Pacific Islander communities.
While all doula training programs differ, most cover anatomy; stages of labor in the birth process; psychological aspects of pregnancy; birth and postpartum; and how to provide comfort, nutrition advice, and lactation guidance. SisterWeb is also piloting a trainee program with a stipend that Executive Director Marna Armstead says is like an apprenticeship. When students have completed the six-month course, Armstead says they will be better prepared to begin working as a doula, potentially with SisterWeb, which plans in the next year to increase the number of its doulas from eight to 15.
Expecting Justice, which has offered two free doula training programs since 2021, recently launched a free Workforce Development Program, which provides mentoring with seasoned doulas and teaches new doulas how to launch a practice. Both their doula trainees and those who go on to the Workforce Development Program are paid a barrier-removal stipend.
Through Heluna Health, both SisterWeb and HMHBA are able to offer their doulas full-time employment with a health plan and retirement benefits, something that’s almost unheard of in the burgeoning industry. SisterWeb also offers mental health counseling for its doulas and also supports Ubers for doulas who are attending births. Vanessa Castro, a former doula with SisterWeb who was recently promoted to Doula Program Coordinator, appreciates that she doesn’t have to work extraordinarily long hours. Before she was hired by SisterWeb, Castro once assisted on a birth that lasted 33 hours. She couldn’t leave the hospital because she was the only support for the parents. At SisterWeb, doulas must be relieved if they work 12 hours straight. “I get healthcare and support from a team that I wouldn’t necessarily get if I was working privately,” Castro says. “I feel comfortable with SisterWeb, and want to be here for a while.”

BENEFITS OF DOULA SUPPORT

1Hoyert DL. Maternal mortality rates in the United States, 2020. NCHS Health E-Stats. 2022. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:113967

2Kozhimannil, et al., Birth Issues in Perinatal Care, March 2016, 43(1), pp 20-27.

3Falconi, et al., eClinicalMedicine, Volume 50, 101531, August 2022.
“We are non-medical professionals, but we are so necessary in the birth team. We hear concerns from patients that doctors are not hearing and we bridge the gap between the doctor and the patient. My prenatal visits last 45 minutes to an hour. No doctor has the time for that. I can hear them and mitigate their fears.”

Jazz De Cohen

Founder of Wisdoms Doula Services

Training a Population Health Workforce

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Julia Araiza refers to herself as a “WIC baby.” She was raised in inner-city Los Angeles and Mexico, in a family that received benefits from Heluna Health’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, which provides healthy, free food, nutritional information, and more. When Araiza was 22, she gave birth to the first of her three children. “When I was pregnant, I did not have any education or support,” she says. “I had no clue what to do with my baby, like how to breastfeed. After giving birth and overcoming my own challenges, I decided that part of my goal was to be there for first-time moms.”
After surmounting many obstacles, Araiza has achieved her goal. She is a degreed nutritionist, a lactation consultant, and future registered dietitian with Heluna Health’s Breastfeeding and Nutrition Services (BFNS) team, which includes the WIC federal grant. Hired by Heluna Health’s WIC Program in December 2015, Araiza was one of eight employees selected in 2022 for its one-year Dietetic Internship program, one important step toward becoming a registered dietitian and a Supervising Nutritionist at WIC.
The Dietetic Internship program is one of several training opportunities in population health that Heluna Health offers. To help build a culturally sensitive and diverse workforce to mitigate racial bias in healthcare, Heluna Health is now expanding these efforts.
The Dietetic Internship that Araiza enrolled in was launched more than 25 years ago with a focus on community-based recruitment, and it has graduated nearly 150 dietetic interns, with 121 becoming registered dietitians. The internship inspired four other California WIC programs to invest in their workforce to also train future dietitians. In addition, Heluna Health’s WIC program acts as a preceptor to 60-70 interns per year from other dietetic internship programs across the U.S. and provides a WIC rotation for local area medical school students. Compared to most dietetic internships that can cost an average of more than $12,000 in total, the Heluna Health WIC Dietetic Internship is free to trainees.
Interns continue to get paid their hourly wage as Heluna Health employees, while working 20 hours a week, and retain full company benefits over the course of the internship. Once they finish the internship, they must commit to working for Heluna Health’s WIC team for three years.
“This program was created to provide opportunities for dietetic internships to our staff and to increase the number of registered dietitians that represent the communities we serve,” says Kiran Saluja, Executive Director of Heluna Health’s WIC program. “Diversity in the profession is the main goal. Opportunities for dietetic internships, a requirement for sitting for the registered dietitian exam, are competitive and expensive, and about 80 percent of registered dietitians are white. There are not enough Black, Hispanic, or Asian dietitians. We’re seeding people who can then become leaders in the profession.”
In a similar fashion, Heluna Health has just launched a program supporting the professional development needs of community health workers. Called Heluna Health’s Skill Builders, the program will fill in key professional gaps for the population health and the social services workforce, serve current Heluna Health program partners as a value-added benefit, and reach new potential partners as well.
“Every single one of us has seen, through the recent pandemic, how critical it is that we optimally train a more nimble, technologically savvy, diverse and collaborative public health workforce, so that we can more seamlessly and effectively address future public health threats,” says Heluna Health President and CEO Dr. Blayne Cutler. “We will all partner with and depend on these heroes to build a more robust layer of protection and a capacity for rapid response that will place us ahead of the curve, not struggling as we trail behind it.”
In 2018, an official from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University contacted Cutler to ask if Heluna Health had the capacity to partner on an internship program with its graduate students. Cutler, an alumna of the Mailman School, signed on. “Heluna Health is public health’s best kept secret,” Cutler says. “We partner on so many incredible projects directly addressing the core areas of expertise that all public health practitioners need to learn, that it seemed to me to be a natural, excellent fit. We are also highly focused, and increasingly so, on training the next generation of diverse public health leaders for the 21st century.”
The most recent Mailman interns have included one student who worked during the summer of 2022 in the research department at Heluna Health and a second who assisted SisterWeb, a Heluna Health partner that provides doula services in San Francisco. For SisterWeb, Nina Neale, now a second-year graduate student at Mailman, analyzed SisterWeb’s social media, created new templates for its newsletters, and assisted in organizing the agency’s digital communications files. Heluna Health’s research intern, Kasturi Bhamidipati, gathered, analyzed, and managed data on social safety net programs from counties throughout the U.S. as part of an outbreak preparedness project that Heluna Health is developing. She also gained proficiency conducting statistical analyses, used mapping software for data visualization, and coauthored a scientific paper. “The internship was a wonderful experience,” Bhamidipati says. “I learned so much.”
Cutler says that Heluna Health is interested in expanding the program with Columbia’s Mailman School and creating new internships with other universities, particularly those that serve a highly diverse student body. The Master of Public Health program at the University of California, Irvine recently agreed to partner with Heluna Health. As a Hispanic serving institution and one where 47% of its students are the first in their families to attend college, UCI is an exciting new addition to the internship program.
Discussions are also underway with the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine. “Heluna Health has such broad reach and impact, in many of the areas that are of interest to students at the School of Medicine,” says Dr. Jonathan Finkelstein, Kaiser’s Senior Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship. Says Cutler, “The interns that have joined us have been exceptional and we look forward to accepting more, as bandwidth allows.”

DEMOGRAPHIC DATA ON STUDENT DIETITIANS*

*Commission on Dietetic Registration Demographics, 2020 Needs Satisfaction Survey

HELUNA HEALTH’S WIC DIETETIC INTERNSHIP DIVERSITY BREAKDOWN 1995-2021

“It’s been a wonderful journey getting all this education and being able to empower people with my knowledge. My passion is to educate families. My Spanish speaking patients are grateful to have someone who speaks their language.”

Julia Araiza

WIC dietitian and lactation consultant

“Every year, we provide services and/or collaborate on approximately 500 unique initiatives that span the gamut of public health—from emerging outbreaks to childhood obesity. We have so much to offer students who want real world experience and research opportunities, and I am so excited to make these opportunities available to motivated students who want to put their education immediately to use.”

Dr. Blayne Cutler

President and CEO, Heluna Health

“When you’re in an environment where people are passionate about their work and where you feel that the work you do matters, it makes you feel so good.”

Kasturi Bhamidipati

Recent Heluna Health intern

FEATURE: LALO ALCARAZ

Drawing the Line

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If you are heading south through downtown Los Angeles on the 110 Freeway, it’s hard to miss the 96-foot tall, brightly painted mural on the side of the L.A. Department of Water and Power building that urges residents of L.A. to get their COVID-19 booster shots.

The mural is the work of nationally syndicated cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and part of the artist’s ambitious campaign with the California Department of Public Health to encourage Latinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The message is critical—at the peak of the pandemic, the death rate for Latinos in California far exceeded the rate for other racial/ethnic groups, in part because of the high number of Latinos who are frontline essential workers. Latino communities have also been adversely affected by vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.
For more than 30 years, Alcaraz has used his art to fight injustice and inhumanity. He grew up near the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego with Mexican immigrant parents from Sinaloa and Zacatecas. Alcaraz’s personal experiences inform his work addressing pressing social issues that affect the Latino community—such as abuse at the border and farmworkers’ rights. Founder of POCHO, a leading Latino satirical website, and creator of La Cucaracha, a nationally syndicated daily comic strip that blends humor and biting social criticism, Alcaraz has been lauded by his peers for his “passion, dedication and brilliance [in] the fight for fair immigration at the border and justice for the Latino community.”
“Art is a powerful way to build trust, convey life-saving information, and empower highly impacted communities to stay protected against this deadly virus.”

Art for Health’s Sake

For centuries, artists have been shining a light on the human condition and speaking out against injustices—sparking positive change in the world by raising awareness and motivating people and governments to take action. Art’s potential to inform and improve the community led Heluna Health to partner with Alcaraz in 2022 on the first of a series of projects. “Working with Lalo Alcaraz and other socially engaged artists is a natural extension of the work that we do across population health,” says Elizabeth Power Robison, Chief Advancement Officer at Heluna Health, who approached Alcaraz as part of a call to action around health equity. “We’re joining with artists because we know how art and health can come together to improve lives.”
In his work with Heluna Health, Alcaraz first produced a visually striking representation of how the organization supports and advances health equity. Focused on the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, the piece features clear and powerful messaging about the importance of nutrition, family resources, and school readiness programs in promoting the healthy development of children.
In early 2023, Alcaraz created for Heluna Health a short animation about maternal health and, specifically, doula programs—part of the organization’s focus on multi-generational family supports that have the potential for national impact.
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Heluna Health’s Little By Little® school readiness program is another area of natural programmatic alignment with artists committed to positively impacting diverse Los Angeles communities. The program enjoys a valuable ongoing partnership with First 5 LA, Arthur J. Gallagher & Company, the State of California, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation (in Tulsa, Oklahoma). Little by Little has prepared hundreds of thousands of low-income children to succeed in school and in life because their families have gained new access to books as well as information that encourages reading and the creation of a vocabulary-rich home environment.
Recognizing the need across the country for family engagement around literacy—and for high quality, multi-lingual, and culturally appropriate reading material for kids—Heluna Health has begun efforts to scale early childhood programming to new locations. Partnership with Alcaraz and other artists is vital to innovating children’s literature with characters and storylines that reflect local communities and encourage healthy life outcomes. Future projects include creating an imprint of children’s books and an animated series. “Joining forces with Heluna Health boosts my mission to bring positive cultural knowledge and helpful health information to the communities that need it most,” says Alcaraz. “And with their help, I can affect many more people than I can reach alone. It feels like a superhero team-up!”

AWARDS FOR ALCARAZ

2022 Herblock Prize winner (the first Latino to win the prestigious award—named after legendary Washington Post editorial cartoonist Herb Block).
Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Editorial Cartooning (2020 and 2021).
Six-time winner of the Southern California Press Award for Best Editorial Cartoon.

The Heluna Health Community

Heluna Health’s success starts and ends with its community, including our dedicated staff and the teams from our partners and direct service programs, the deserving people who benefit from our work, and the universe of key stakeholders who help us effect positive change in population health and preparedness. We could never reach our goals without the support of many generous individuals, including our board members and other philanthropic leaders, and the corporations, foundations, and government agencies that recognize the value of our mission.

Chairman of the Board
Alexander Baker, MBA
“The 2021-22 fiscal year overlapped with my first year as Chairman of the Board, and it completely reinforced why I serve on the Heluna Health Board. Population health issues intensified on many fronts, from COVID-19 to homelessness, and Heluna’s mission is more important than ever. An increasing number of people depend on our work and the work of our partners, and I’m proud to say we are meeting the challenge. On behalf of the Heluna Health Board of Directors and Executive Management Team, I offer thanks to our community of supporters who enable us to make a difference in many people’s lives. Heluna Health constantly strives to develop new initiatives in health equity and preparedness, and we invite you to be part of this inspiring effort.”

At Heluna Health, we work directly in local communities and with our partners to provide proven population health interventions.

*For July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022

Thank you to the numerous individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies whose critical support enables Heluna Health and our partners to build healthy, strong communities for all. Gifts, grants, and contracts of $1,000 or more for the time period July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022 are recognized in the Impact Report.

Heluna Health’s accomplished Board of Directors and experienced executives work collaboratively to uplift our part