I am now at the 6-month mark since joining Community Health Councils, as the permanent CEO, and I am extremely thankful to all our wonderful partners who have taken time from their busy schedules to meet with me to openly discuss their perceptions of CHC, mutual goals and, together, unfold the possibilities for collaboration. These conversations, which I hope to continue having, have been instrumental in helping CHC think through its role in being a “good” partner by serving as a tool and resource to our partners and stakeholders in ensuring we are moving steadily toward the goal of achieving equity in South Los Angeles (SLA) and in other under-resourced communities. I continue to be inspired by the long-term shared commitment to improving the environment in South Los Angeles so that families can truly experience well-being; and saddened by those elements that keep us apart and unable to capture the critical resources coming into SLA that lead to community well-being.
To this end, CHC is nearing the completion of its 3 Year Strategic Plan where we will outline our current and future priorities. CHC has a long history of working toward collective impact and that will remain constant. We, nonetheless, also realize that, given the limited resources available to nonprofits, we will need to continue making strategic decisions about how to support our partners and how to stay on top of all the issues that are relevant to SLA so that we can have the greatest impact—together. Some people have asked me, “is CHC doing ok since we don’t see you represented at some meetings?” My answer is yes, CHC is doing well but certainly not with the same staff capacity as in the past. Thus, we are relying on our partners to keep us abreast while we continue to strengthen CHC’s long term sustainability and efficacy. In fact, our principal tactic is to remain small but powerful and expand during special projects. When we release our strategic plan we will create many opportunities to discuss this decision and many others, as well as celebrate our history and achievements. More details coming soon. Look forward to working with all of you!


Veronica Flores
Chief Executive Officer

Long-time Policy Director, Sonya Vasquez, gets promoted

Community Health Councils would like to congratulate long-time Policy Director, Sonya Vasquez for her recent promotion to Chief Program Officer. Ms. Vasquez has over 16 years of experience supporting low-income residents of South LA and statewide by creating programs and advocating for policies that provides access to resources and healthy environments. As the new CPO, Ms. Vasquez will be responsible for providing professional leadership and setting strategic direction for all of CHC’s program goals. Ms. Vasquez holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan.

Meet CHC’s new Policy Director, Dr. Evelyn González-Figueroa

Community Health Councils is pleased to announce the hiring of Dr. Evelyn González-Figueroa as the new Policy Director of Health Systems. Dr. Gonzalez comes with a vast experience on policy advocacy and research. She has previously served as the Director of Community Education and Outreach for Planned Parenthood and led a gender operations research project in India on behalf of Pathfinder International.  She also worked extensively on community based research with vulnerable populations at UCLA. She uses evidence-based principles to inform policy, programs, and research.

Health4All Children: An Historic Moment in California

In 2015, the California Legislature approved Senate Bill 75, which grants Medi-Cal full scope eligibility to all children under the age of 19 regardless of their immigration status beginning no sooner than May 16, 2016. The passage of this piece of legislation was the culmination of many years of advocacy to provide healthcare coverage to all. Currently, children and adults who do not have a qualifying immigration status are only eligible to receive restricted scope which is limited only to emergency and pregnancy benefits.

Since last year, advocates have been working with the Department of Health Care Systems to develop the implementation plan, notices and other key information pieces. Community Health Councils (CHC) has been actively participating in stakeholder meetings, providing comments and educating community partners. This spring CHC convened several regional enrollment network meetings in various counties to ensure that on the ground enrollers were informed about this policy change and prepared to help families. A summary report with barriers, concerns and recommendations from these meetings will be prepared in the following months after all meetings are complete. CHC is also working with statewide advocates to put on a webinar in April for the launch of the http://health4allkids.org/

With the program now in effect, all children currently in restricted Medi-Cal are transitioning to Full Scope Medi-Cal. Families have been receiving notices informing them of the transition and explaining Medi-Cal Managed Care options since April 2016. This policy change is now in effect and children can apply for Medi-Cal today. Families who have children in the Kaiser Child Health Plan or other local programs will not automatically transition so will need to apply for Medi-Cal. To learn more about the implementation of SB 75 go to http://dhcs.ca.gov/SB75. Local enrollers are also available to help families with any questions.

If you have any question about this policy change or anything in this article, please contact Sonya Vasquez, Chief Program Officer at sonya@risingcommunities.org.

CKF Regional Enrollment Network Meetings 2016

During the months of February, March and April 2016, CHC on behalf of the Covering Kids and Families Statewide Coalition (CKF) and with funding from The California Endowment conducted 3 Regional Enrollment Network Meetings in Yolo, Fresno and San Bernardino Counties where more than 100 assistors from 10 counties received Medi-Cal program and policy updates as well as a presentation on immigration and health.

The meetings focused on SB 75 implementation, Health4All kids, and gave attendees the opportunity to discuss anticipated barriers and proposed solutions. Consistently in both meetings attendees identified potential misinformation and technology issues (specifically system glitches) as possible barriers. To overcome these issues, groups highlighted that cross collaboration between the enrollment networks, county, state and health plans and a series of trainings was needed to ensure a smooth implementation of SB 75. The CKF Coalition would like to recognize the National Immigration Law Center, the Department of Health Care Services, California Coverage and Health Initiatives, Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Fresno HCAP and the Inland Empire CHI for their partnership and hard work in making these meetings possible. A full report of all these meetings will be available soon

A Day at the Capitol

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016 the Covering Kids and Families (CKF) and LA Access to Health Coverage coalitions in collaboration with California Coverage and Health Initiatives (CCHI) convened healthcare advocates from more than 20 counties to their annual “Day at the Capitol” in Sacramento.

The day started with a policy briefing where participants were provided with policy and program updates from the Department of Health Care Services, Department of Managed Health Care, California Welfare Directors Association and Health Access of California. To conclude the busy agenda of the day, attendees joined their respective county delegations and conducted legislative visits in the state Capitol. The following member of the LA Access to Health Coverage Coalition joined CHC staff to meet with 11 legislators from LA County: Southside Coalition, LA County Department of Public Health, Community Clinic Association of LA County, Northeast Valley Health Corporation, Community Covered and Venice Family Clinic. During the visits the coalition’s mission and goals were shared and the following priority bills were discussed:

  • SB 10 (Lara) : Health for All –This bill would require the state to apply for a waiver to allow undocumented individuals to buy unsubsidized coverage through the Exchange.SB 10 will be heard on the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 25th.
  • SB 33 (Hernandez) : Medi-Cal Recovery – This bill would limit Medi-Cal estate recovery to what is federally required. It would also eliminate recovery from the estate of a surviving spouse of a deceased Medi-Cal beneficiary. SB 33 will be heard on the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 25th.
  • AB 1114 (Bonilla) : Language Accessibility – This bill would clarify that Medi-Cal and Covered California renewal forms and notices must be translated into the thirteen Medi-Cal threshold languages. AB 1114 will be heard on the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 25th.
  • SB 1339 (Monning) : Inter-County Transfers – This bill would streamline intercounty transfer procedures for the state welfare systems ( Medi-Cal, CalWORKs and CalFresh) SB 1339 will be heard on the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 27th.
  • AB 2394 (Garcia) : Nonmedical Transportation – This bill would add nonmedical transportation to the schedule of Medi-Cal benefits. AB 2394 will be heard on the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 27th.
  • SB 1361 (Nielsen) : Medi-Cal Glasses – This bill would restore coverage of one pair of eyeglasses provided every 2 years to an individual 21 years of age or older who is unable to meet or exceed the driver’s license vision standards established by the DMV. SB 1361 will be heard on the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 27th.
  • AB 2308 (Hernandez) : Enrollment Assistance – This bill will expand on the California Health Care Coverage Enrollment Assistance Act of 2016 to provide uninsured students of the California State University and the California Community Colleges with information about health care coverage options and enrollment assistance. AB 2308 will be heard on the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 27th.

Quimby Reform Progresses Through the City Process

On March 24 Community Health Councils was among more than 50 park advocates at the City Planning Commission hearing in Van Nuys in support of updating the City’s Quimby policy. Quimby produces funds for park acquisition and development through fees on new residential developments.

The outdated Quimby policy fostered unequal fee distribution resulting in communities like South Los Angeles becoming park poor and reducing access to health supporting physical activity opportunities. To remedy the situation, The City’s Planning Department analyzed and put forth a proposal in October, 2015. However, from the perspective of the Parks for All Coalition of which CHC is a member, elements of the proposal fell short in two areas: fee structure and location of fee allocation. The original proposal from the Planning Department called for fees of $7,500 or $12,500 per new residential unit, depending on the development type. These proposed fees are lower than in nearby cities like Pasadena and comparable to Glendale. In March 2016, the Planning Department released a revised policy with fees lowered to $5,000 or $10,000 per unit. The policy also included a provision to limit where park fees can be allocated to one mile of the residential development. In many built out, densely populated communities, this requirement is not feasible.

The Parks for All Coalition, pushed for changes to the revised policy. They include: 1) adopt the higher funding level originally recommended by the city analyst, and 2) expand the area where park funds can be spent from one to two miles of the residential development. Anticipating future add-on fees related to affordable housing, the Planning Commission rejected the higher fees. They unanimously approved expansion of the “neighborhood radius” to two miles increasing the supply of potential park sites.

At the May 17 Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee meeting of LA City Council, The Coalition’s amendment to strike language that would have effectively tightly restricted funds around any new development was incorporated into a motion calling for a draft ordinance. Developers and business interests lobbied for a longer fee phase-in period and other changes. The draft ordinance will receive further PLUM consideration within the next few weeks before moving on to the full City Council. Watch for more updates as the Quimby Reform ordinance advances.

If you have any question about anything in this article, please contact Gwendolyn Flynn, Policy Director at gflynn@risingcommunities.org.

Street Vending Legalization on the Move

While most major cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and Houston have established regulations for permitting the sale of merchandise and/or food on city sidewalks, in the City of Los Angeles, street vending is illegal and, a separate law prohibits mobile vending within 500 feet of school campuses during regular school hours. In 2013 a motion was put forth legalizing street vending which has been studied by the Los Angeles City Council’s Economic Development Committee. The study recognized that the City of Los Angeles is in great need of “a more comprehensive legal framework to effectively address sidewalk vending. An effective regulatory street vending system has the potential to protect health, increase public safety, and stimulate economic activity”.

The LA Street Vendor Campaign is a city-wide coalition of organizations who are committed to developing a system that gives micro-entrepreneurs an opportunity to make an honest living, encourage healthy eating, and support existing small businesses in communities all over Los Angeles. Among the seven core elements of a Los Angeles Sidewalk Vending Ordinance proposed by the LA Street Vendor Campaign are: a citywide permit system, reasonable restrictions on location, and meaningful incentives for healthy food vending. For more on the Campaign and the entire set of core elements go to http://streetvendorcampaign.blogspot.com/. After three years no concrete decisions have been made. Finally, this spring, the matter moved to the Public Works Committee of LA City Council. However there is concern that this is simply a tactic to further delay any decisions on the ordinance. The Campaign is continuing to elevate this issue and engage a broad and diverse group of community stakeholders. CHC supports the efforts put forward by the Campaign and will continue to monitor this issue and send updates as it moves forward. Last year CHC released the results of a Health Impact Assessment on Street Vendor Legalization and Student Nutrition in South Los Angeles which can be found in our publications.

For more information about anything in this article contact CHC Policy Director, Gwendolyn Flynn at

Let’s Talk Nutrition! Using Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) to Build Leadership Capacity

This report documents the process on how to implement a Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) project with a consumer group. The report details the CBPAR process for developing and refining the research question, creating and implementing the assessment tool, dissemination of information and lessons learned. The CBPAR practice proved to be an effective approach to study the nutrition literacy of South Los Angeles adults around reading nutrition facts labels.


Farmers’ Market Case Study report

Community Health Councils (CHC) released a market study of select South LA farmers’ markets that show potential for greater local patronage and investment attraction. While the demand for fresh food has risen in the last few years, South LA farmers’ markets struggle to retain regular attendance. This affects operational stability. The analysis shows that perceptions about product variety and price are the primary factors keeping consumers away and it also highlights how farmers and market managers are addressing these concerns. This report is released on the heels of the Los Angeles Food Policy Councils’ Farmers’ Markets for All Day promoting electronic benefits transfer (EBT) access at all farmers’ markets.  In a related development, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on a motion to create an ordinance requiring all farmers’ markets within the City of LA accept electronic benefits transfers (EBT) for CalFresh consumers at a May 13 Council meeting. The case study report is now available online at CHC’s website.

CHC Staff Highlight

Gwendolyn Flynn
Policy Director 

How long have you have been with CHC?

I began with CHC 15 years ago as Community Liaison engaging community members in the African Americans Building a Legacy of Health collaborative.  In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s R.E.A.C.H 2010 (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) initiative to reduce preventable chronic disease, we worked to address diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension disparities.

What is your current role?

I now oversee the built environment policy area.  In this position, I work to ensure community members’ participation in the research, development, promotion and evaluation of policy that removes barriers to nutritious food, chances to be physically active, and protections against environmental hazards.

How has your role evolved throughout your time with CHC?

Over the years, I’ve taken on different roles and responsibilities.  I mentioned having held the position of community liaison.  As the work has evolved, so have my roles.  In the beginning our Collaborative was comprised of several different work groups.  One was the Economic Parity Work Group, which I facilitated as Liaison.  In time, I oversaw the management of that work group.  Eventually the group split into two, underwent a name change and are now known as coalitions. The Food Policy Roundtable Coalition is responsible for policy involving food resources that includes—supermarkets, neighborhood stores, community gardens, restaurants, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture, etc.  The Coalition for an Active South LA is responsible for policy related to physical resources like places to support active living– parks and open spaces, recreation areas, active transportation are examples.   Between the two coalitions, I oversaw the organizing of two key conferences—Grocery Store Symposium co-sponsored with PolicyLink and LISC in 2009 and Re-Imagining Empty Space Tour and Summit in 2011.  The Symposium culminated in the Food Desert to Food Oasis policy report.  It led to the formation of the FreshWorks Fund to support food retail development in nutrition deficient California communities. The Tour and Summit showcased South Los Angeles’ under-utilized, blighted property with the potential for conversion to more healthful purposes.  It was the pre-cursor to policies like the City of Los Angeles’ Parkway Ordinance, the California Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones and lot activation projects and programs. two policy Until recently we had two policy areas—nutrition and environmental health with separate directors and I directed the nutrition area for almost three years.  In December 2015 we combined the two policy areas once again.  It is now known as the Built Environment.

What have been your greatest accomplishments?

First of all, I look at the work as a collaborative endeavor.  I don’t take sole credit for any accomplishments.  Our achievements have been because of a collection of people both within CHC and our coalitions, partners, and collaborators.  We have been fortunate to have several successes in our body of work.  It is difficult to determine the “greatest”.  Establishment of the Greater Baldwin Hills Alliance of community residents to participate in the creation of the Community Standards District (CSD) Overlay Zone to regulate oil drilling in the Inglewood/Baldwin Hills Oil field is a great accomplishment.  It is the strictest regulations in the country for an oil field its size situated in a densely populated urban area.  Five years later, the Community Advisory Panel is still providing oversight to ensure CSD compliance by the drilling operator.  Another accomplishment with arguably great impact in terms of reach is the General Plan amendment density controls on new stand-alone fast food restaurants.  It is intended to preserve scarce land space in South LA to encourage a variety of restaurant types rather than concentrate one type of restaurant in a single area.  It is part of a comprehensive strategy to address food related health disparities.  Nationally, it was the first use of an urban design standard motivated by health concerns rather than environmental or aesthetics.  This specific standard now appears in other City of Los Angeles Planning documents.  It stirred enormous interest from other communities. We received a great deal of attention nationally and internationally.  Just recently I was interviewed about the policy by a documentary team from France because France is now beginning to face some of the same challenges around obesity.

What do you do to stay healthy?

Staying healthy has been a life-long aspiration.  I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with beans for protein—a few complex carbohydrates for energy.  No dairy or meat.  I try to be active—participate in yoga weekly.

Coming Soon: June 2016

  • West Adams Community Plan Update
  • California’s Public Health CoverageLandscape for Immigrants: Changes and Challenges Report

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