Historically, the health status of Black populations has been significantly worse than other racial/ethnic subgroups due to systematic racism, health inequities, health behaviors, and comorbid health conditions. Due to health disparities and systemic anti-Black racism, the need for mitigation efforts in the Long Beach Black community is greater now than in prior history. This need will continue to grow, without mitigation, during future disasters or public health crises.
The City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services partnered with Dr. Amber Johnson of California State University, Long Beach to begin developing a Black Health Equity Team to address Black Health Equity and Disparities. The Black Health Equity Fund, a million-dollar CARES Act allocation, provides services to Long Beach Black residents via grant funding for local Black-serving nonprofits and businesses. The Black Health Equity Collaborative (BHEC) was established as an informal collaborative partnership among Black-serving provider agencies, nonprofits, and for-profit small businesses to promote health and wellness to reduce risk factors and mortality among Long Beach Black residents.
In 2022, BHEC was awarded 501(c)(3) non-profit status and BHEC continues to grow collaboratively through regular meetings to continue working towards our shared mission. BHEC continues to build its leadership structure and overall organization goals to effectively reduce health inequities among Long Beach Black residents.
Gwendolyn has served for 22 years as a preventive health leader at the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. Gwendolyn currently oversees implementation of the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program, a Sister Circle group intervention aimed at improving the birth outcomes of Black infants and mothers. Gwendolyn led the development and implementation of the Black Health Equity Fund, a million-dollar CARES Act allocation, to provide COVID-19 support services to Long Beach Black residents via grant funding for local Black-serving nonprofits and microbusinesses.
Dr. Amber Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Science at California State University at Long Beach. She earned both her PhD and MPH in Community Health Education received her BA in Psychology. Her love for epidemiology also motivated her to pursue a Post-Bac Certificate in Epidemiology. Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on social epidemiology and is guided by the weathering hypothesis, which posits that stress associated with racial inequities may cause health deterioration among African Americans as early as young adulthood, leading to racial disparities in health outcomes over the life span. Dr. Johnson also has experience working with community-based participatory research projects, HIV prevention, cardiovascular prevention education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and community health assessment and outreach.
Chelsea Okundolor received her undergraduate degree from California State University, Long Beach in Health Science with an emphasis in community health education. She is currently an Outreach & Social Media Coordinator for the Black Health Equity Collaborative and a pre-medical postbaccalaureate student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her career goals include becoming a women’s health provider and conducting research focusing on black maternal mortality.
Tobechi Udeh graduated from California State University Long Beach with BS in Health Science and an option in community education. She is passionate about pursuing a career in the healthcare field where she can work with minority populations in the pursuit of health equity. Tobechi is an Outreach & Social Media Assistant for the Black Health Equity Collaborative.
Noemi Mendez recently earned a Master’s in Public Health degree at California State University, Long Beach. She has a BA in Sociology from UCLA where she further developed her passion for leading community centered approaches to achieve optimal health in Black and Latinx communities. Noemi has extensive experience with coalition building, community outreach, partnership development, facilitating health education classes, community organizing and evaluation of health education programs. Noemi also enjoys cooking new recipes for her family and is looking forward to spending more time with them soon.
Victoria A. Davis is a current candidate for the Master’s in Public Health degree with a focus in community health education at California State University, Long Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in counseling and social change from San Diego State University. Victoria has transitioned from an intern position to a supporting role on the city side. She now serves as the BHE Assistant Coordinator, working on program development, accounting, and more. After completing her Master’s program, Victoria plans on continuing her education and obtaining a doctoral degree in public health with an emphasis in a social science. Her career goal is to conduct health equity research in service of the Black community.
Connie Rivera led the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Bureau Grants Project Manager for the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. Connie’s experience and dedicated passion lies in social justice, mental health, equity, as well as having a diverse and inclusive community. As a member of the Black Health Equity team, she uses a collective impact lens to address systemic issues and to promote social change and innovation. Connie received her Master’s of Social Work from USC and her B.A. in Political Economy from UC Berkeley.
Aden Tefera graduated from California State University, Long Beach where she received her degree in Health Science and completed coursework in chemistry and human biology. She is currently an intern for the Black Health Equity Collaborative. She possesses strong interpersonal skills and thrives in a fast-paced environment where she can engage members in the community.
Andrea Lee is a Fund Development Specialist in the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. She leads development efforts with DHHS to promote health equity in Long Beach, including grant writing, data analysis, and relationship cultivation to ensure program sustainability. Prior to joining the City of Long Beach, Andrea was the Director of Development and Community Relations and co-founder of a charter school in Oakland, Ca. She built partnerships with the school district, county social service department, and community organizations to deliver school-based services and realize the vision for a neighborhood school that serves historically disenfranchised children. She has a Master’s in Public Health from University of California, Berkeley and Bachelor’s degree from University of Southern California.