Public Health Champions Announced

What do public health champions look like? They are school administrators, teachers, parents, and community members working together to change the culture of a school district and create a healthier, safer city. It’s an organization that offers emergency shelter, housing, and children’s services to thousands of people every year. It’s a resident taking on a leadership role to encourage active living and increase the availability of healthy foods in her community.

These are some of the 27 local individuals and organizations the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) honored Friday during the 12th annual Live Well, San Diego! Public Health Champion Awards ceremony.

“These individuals and organizations are working to ensure the County is a safe and healthy place to live and work,” said Chairman Greg Cox, County Board of Supervisors. “I applaud their efforts. Their great work is an inspiration to us all.”

The awards reflect achievements related to the 2013 National Public Health Week (April 1-7) theme, Public Health is ROI (Return on Investment): Save Lives, Save Money!  The theme focuses on a safe and healthy workplace, safe and active commuting, and living in healthy communities. The Public Health Champion Awards Ceremony is part of the County’s Live Well, San Diego! initiative, an ongoing effort to improve the health and safety of residents.

“These awards highlight the valuable partnerships we have created with local governments, businesses, and communities,” said Nick Macchione, HHSA director. “Their extraordinary achievements promote public health and protect local residents.”

The 2013 Live Well, San Diego! Public Health Champion Award recipients are:

Theme Award: Escondido Union School District’s CARE Youth Project

The Escondido Union School District’s CARE Youth Project is a program that strengthens links and partnerships to create a safer and healthier Escondido. The project brings together school administrators, teachers, parents, and residents to change the culture of the school district. Some of the project’s programs include attendance interventions, substance abuse intervention activities, crisis management and community education.

Individual Award: Valerie Swain

For the past 19 years, Valerie Swain has worked for the Palomar Health Downtown Campus Outpatient Surgery as a surgical charge nurse. She is also a volunteer at Interfaith Community Services (ICS), where she has served meals to hundreds of homeless veterans for over a decade. Swain was a key figure in the creation of a partnership between Palomar Heath and ICS that provides recuperative care for Palomar Health homeless patients after they leave the hospital.

Organization Award: South Bay Community Services

South Bay Community Services (SBCS), the largest social service and community development organization in the South Bay, offers emergency shelter; transitional and affordable housing; prevention, early intervention, and diversion services for youth; health screenings, assessments and treatment for children and early educational opportunities. SBCS serves more than 50,000 families and individuals each year.

Regional Awards:

Nora Faine – Central Region

Nora Faine, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of Molina Healthcare, has worked to improve the health and well-being of San Diegans for more than 23 years. She oversees all clinical operations, management programs, and quality improvement efforts for Molina Healthcare, which serves more than 74,000 San Diego residents. Faine is also a member of several community groups, including the California Wellness Foundation’s Children and Youth Community Health Initiatives Advisory Committee, San Diego Care Initiative Task Force, and the San Diego County Health Literacy Taskforce. 

Carol Lewis – East Region

Carol Lewis is the chairperson for the Mountain Empire Collaborative, which includes local groups, agencies and individuals who provide health and wellness services to the community. These services aim to reduce chronic disease by improving access to healthy foods and eliminating so-called “food deserts” in East County. The collaborative’s work includes developing a community garden and nutritional program; dental services; health and safety forums and programs that bring physical activity into area schools.

Sheri Easterly – North Central Region

Sheri Easterly has worked in human development for more than two decades. She is currently the program manager for the Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Program at Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego. Her work focuses on policy, media advocacy, community organizing and youth development. Easterly is also involved with several community coalitions that work to empower parents and community residents to take an active role in building healthy and safe places to live.

North Coastal Prevention Coalition – North Coastal Region

For the past 20 years, the North Coastal Prevention Coalition has worked to reduce the harm of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs by advocating for policy and systems changes in the cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista. The coalition includes community residents, educators, law enforcement, prevention and treatment representatives, government officials and community-based organizations.

Georganne Grotey – North Inland Region

Georganne Grotey serves as a senior services supervisor for the San Marcos Senior Center, which serves 650 seniors daily. Under her leadership, the senior center provides wellness programs, services, and resources for active seniors and their families. Grotey played an important part in the establishment of the San Marcos Intergenerational Community Garden. She also advocates for senior wellness and intergenerational programs as a participant in the North County Intergenerational Community Council, Palomar Health Community Action Council, Project Care Advisory Council and the North County Community Action Network.

Sonia Ruan – South Region

Sonia Ruan is the principal at Kimball Elementary in National City. She works to identify the social, emotional and health barriers that prevent students’ success. This work includes a mentorship program with San Diego State University and partnering with many community agencies via the Kimball Elementary School Workgroup. Ruan is currently working to establish a Communities of Excellence Project, which aims to increase healthy choices on the school’s lunch menu.

Anna Solis – Aging and Independence Services

Since 1999, Anna Solis has worked as an exercise instructor for the Feeling Fit Club exercise program in conjunction with HHSA’s Aging and Independence Services. The program offers exercise classes for older adults that focus on functional fitness to help participants remain healthy and independent.

Director’s Award:

Love Your Heart Collaborative

The County and its partners created the “Love Your Heart” campaign two years ago to address heart disease and stroke in the region. Through the campaign, free blood pressure screenings were offered to residents at more than 60 locations on Valentine’s Day. The screenings were offered by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Human Resources and the San Diego County Fire Authority, in partnership with Kaiser Permanente San Diego, U.S. HealthWorks, Anthem Blue Cross of California, Be There-Right Care Initiative, City of San Diego firefighters, CALFIRE, volunteer firefighters, nursing students from Azusa Pacific University, Cal State University San Marcos, Point Loma Nazarene University, and San Diego State University. 2-1-1 San Diego gave residents information about screening sites, hours and locations. A total of 2,016 people got their blood pressure checked during the event.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact