Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Toward the Equitable & Heathy City - Santa Ana, California

I recently gave a talk at UC Irvine on my book, Toward the Healthy City, and we had close to 200 people turn out, including many community members from the City of Santa Ana.  Santa Ana is one of the sites for the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative sponsored by The California Endowment.  I also participate in a half-day workshop organized by Professor Michael Montoya, students and community organizations working in both the Santa Ana and Long Beach BHC sites.  The folks organizing for health equity in Santa Ana are doing amazing work, particularly America Bracho of Latino Health Access.  America is one of the most dynamic and inspirational community organizers and public health leaders in the United States.  We talked about the importance of and difficulty to sustain long-term community-university partnerships and the critical role of local knowledge for addressing health inequities, something I wrote about in my first book Street Science.  In particular, Latino Health Access has trained community leaders through their Promotores model, and these folks (mostly women) are some of the most important experts on what it will take to build a more equitable and healthy community.   I learned a lot from America and enjoyed our conversations about how to truly work for a more healthy and socially just city that address the specific needs of Latinos, people of color and everyone. I truly look forward to working closer with her team to help build a more equitable and healthy Santa Ana.   

Kenyan Informal Settlements Improvement Programme (KISIP)

The Kenyan government recently launched the Kenyan Informal Settlement Improvement Programme (KISIP) with the soupport of the World Bank and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).  Our partnership in Kenya that includes the Muungano Support Trust (MUST), Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the University of Nairobi, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and my team at UC Berkeley, have been actively involved in trying to shape this program to ensure civil society groups are at the table and shaping project investments.  Our work in the Mathare Valley informal settlement in Nairobi aims to act as a model for how urban upgrading can meaningfully involve community residents, NGOs, the academic community and local service providers including government agencies.  We are also working to ensure that KISIP and other Kenyan Government supported initiatives aimed at improving the well-being of slum dwellers, such as the Kenyan Slum Upgrade Program (KENSUP) supported by UN-HABITAT, learn from the expertise of residents, the enumeration and planning work that has already happened and continues in communities like Mathare, including the plan our team helped draft for the Kosovo community in Mathare.  I am also leading a studio class during this semester that will run simultaneously at Berkeley and the University of Nairobi, involve all our community partners, and will draft an upgrading plan for the entire Mathare Valley in Nairobi.  More on that soon.