By Edward Henderson
SACRAMENTO — The California Black Health Network is the only organization committed to advancing health equity for African Americans and Black immigrants in the Golden State.
It’s mission is to ensure that all Black Californians, irrespective of their educational background, socio-economic class, zip code, sexual orientation, gender identity, living conditions or immigration status have access to high-quality and equitable primary and behavioral health care. That mission aims to prevent people from unnecessarily succumbing to disease-related fatalities and is supported by the network’s many events, informational sessions, fundraisers and training sessions.
One recurring event the network hosts is the online Health Equity Forum, where various stakeholders convene to discuss the most pressing health issues affecting Black communities.
The network’s Health4Life series brings together health professionals from diverse disciplines to share information about family health history. That knowledge of genetic genealogy is an important aspect of achieving a healthier community in the eyes of network leaders. The organization also forges partnerships with community groups to participate in festivals and other recreational events to bring health information to the public in more informal settings.
The California Black Health Network also prioritizes supporting research and educational initiatives that document the underlying factors influencing the health status of Black Californians and informing policy initiatives aimed at reducing disparities. The network’s carry the voice campaign provides the Black community with a platform to share their experiences with the health care system.
California Black Media spoke with Rhonda M. Smith, executive director of the California Black Health Network, about the organization’s impact, achievements and challenges over the year.
CBM: What does your organization do to improve the lives of Black people in California?
RS: The California Black Health Network conducts outreach, education and advocacy to achieve health equity for Black Californians through the lens of understanding critical issues that lie at the intersection of racial justice, social justice and environmental justice.
CBM: What was your greatest success over the course of the last year?
RS: Over the past year, we were recognized for our work and impact. The network was chosen as Nonprofit of the Year by the Sacramento Black Chamber, and as a DEI Award Honoree by the Sacramento Business Journal. In addition, we enrolled over 1,000 people in health care coverage and provided health education to over 2,000 Black Californians to improve health literacy and self-empowerment.
CBM: In your view, what is the biggest challenge Black Californians face?
RS: I think that our health is our greatest asset. Unfortunately, Black Californians don’t all have the same opportunity, ability and resources to live long healthy lives like other racial or ethnic groups. So access to quality, equitable, culturally competent and affordable health care is our biggest challenge. If we don’t have good health and longevity, it affects all other aspects of our lives.
CBM: What was your organization’s biggest challenge?
RS: Like all nonprofit organizations, we’re in the business of fundraising, and like many Black-led organizations there’s the challenge of the philanthropy giving gap. The unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76% smaller than their white-led counterparts, and their average percentage of revenue was less than half. It’s a major challenge, especially in garnering investments for core operating support and capacity building — especially since there has been a decline since 2020 of funding opportunities available for Black-led nonprofits.
CBM: Does your organization support or plan to get involved in the push for reparations in California?
RS: Yes, and we support the activities of the reparations task force and will do our part to address the issues identified in chapter 12 related to physical and mental health.
CBM: How can more Californians of all backgrounds get involved in the work you’re doing?
RS: They can start by becoming a member of the Black Health Network, attend our webinars and events, and volunteer their time, talent, and treasure in support of the organization’s mission and work, and join the Campaign for Black Health Equity.
The Black Health Network is the membership arm of the California Black Health Network and is a virtual community of like-minded health equity leaders, professionals, policy makers, advocates, individuals and partners who work to ensure that Black Californians live lives free from violence, racism and health inequities. As a network member, you will be able to network and interact with others virtually; exchange information and collaborate on common interests and goals; develop professional or social contacts; and leverage tools and resources to help you achieve impact in your mission to improve the health and well-being of Black Californians. Visit CaBlackHealthNetwork.org for more information on how you can get involved.
Edward Henderson is a reporter for California Black Media.