Q&A with our Equity Committee Chair, Darleen Ortega

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Q. How did you get involved in Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I was recruited to the board. I am not sure how my name came up.

Q. What is your role on NWHF's board?

A. Currently I serve as chair of the Equity Committee, and also as a member of the Community Engagement Committee.

Q.  What have you learned so far from NWHF’s Learning Together & Connecting Communities project?

 

A.  It has been very inspiring to learn about some of the amazing work that is being done to address the needs of people with disabilities. Also, I think my thinking has deepened a lot about how important it is to treat persons with disabilities as whole persons and not just make their disability the focus. That sounds so obvious when you say it, but it is a common mistake that I have made myself.

Q.  How do you think the Learning Together & Connecting Communities project will change NWHF’s foundational practices?

A.  It is not enough to have the intention to fund more of the work of organizations who work with people with disabilities. Without relationships, we leave our own blind spots intact and cannot make decisions that are likely to have the most impact. We need to empower others who have been working for a long time on such issues to broaden their impact and find ways to collaborate. I think this project will help us be a more effective participant in work that has already been done. It will help us to ask better questions of others and ourselves. 

Q.  What has been your favorite moment at NWHF?

A.  There are so many.  I really doubted what I could contribute early on but have found work to do that is deeply meaningful to me. I still doubt how much I have contributed but am so grateful for the opportunity to work on equity issues in an organization that is really willing to ask hard questions and work on such issues. NWHF is often the only place I can ask certain questions or raise certain issues and not pay a heavy price, and have some hope of others engaging with those questions and issues.

Q.  How do you relate to NWHF’s mission and values?

A.  I have spent my career harboring deep concern for the overlooked experiences and needs of oppressed and underrepresented communities. Most of my work has been in the arena of law, but NWHF has deepened my awareness of the health impacts of the same disparities that have troubled me for my entire career.

Q.  What do you do for your day job?

A.  I am a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals.  I preside over a panel of three judges and we review all kinds of cases that come through the state courts and administrative agencies.

Q.  How do you define “health?”

A.  My idea of health includes the whole person: their physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being.  Health also includes all that is true about a given individual: his or her cultural context, family of origin, gender and sexual identity, and physical gifts and limitations. All of us need healing from time-to-time, but we don't need fixing. We do need understanding.

Q.  If you could change one thing in your community, what would you change?

A.  I would like for all of my communities to be more genuinely embracing of difference and to be constantly interested in hearing perspectives that are currently unrepresented or have been historically underpresented.

Q.  Would you rather be a deep sea diver or an astronaut?

A. An astronaut.

 

Q&A with our Grants Administrator, Fannie Black

Q. Describe a day in the life of Fannie.

A typical day starts with emails and phone calls: responding to inquiries about funding opportunities, resolving issues with our grantee portals or answering/asking questions related to specific grants. Even at times when we don’t have active grant cycles, there is still so much to do. Of course there are also meetings, and the ones I really enjoy are with our community partners, because that’s where I get to learn more about the great work our partners are doing. Those meetings also give me the opportunity to get to know the people doing that work and what inspires and motivates them.

These days I’ve been spending a lot of time on a data migration project. We’re moving our grants management system to a new platform. It’s probably not exciting for most people, but it’s been exciting for me to learn something new and create a more user friendly process for our staff and community partners.

There is also a lot of laughter thrown in there too throughout the day. We love to laugh in the office!

Q. What do you enjoy most about working at NWHF?

I really enjoy learning about our community partners and the work that they’re doing. Before coming to the Foundation, I really wasn’t aware of all the nonprofits in Oregon and SW Washington doing amazing work to improve the overall health of the region. There were some organizations I was familiar with, but I didn’t know what they actually did. It’s also great to see how those organizations partner with each other to make their visions a reality.

I also enjoy working with my colleagues here at the Foundation, as I said before, we love to laugh in the office. We don’t just get along here. The care and respect we have for each other shows every day in how we engage and work with each other. I think the teasing and joking around helps us keep a good balance of work and play in the office. Although our days are busy, we find time to throw some fun in the mix.

Q. How are you currently involved with the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative?

As the Grant Administrator, I handle a lot of the behind the scenes work to bring our grant opportunities to our partners. From building the grant application, to resolving any technical issues, to ensuring applications are complete, and finally generating grant agreements, I am involved before the grant cycle opens and well after it closes.

Q. If you could change any one thing in your community, what would you change?

My “community” is always expanding. As a multiracial individual, I am part of multiple communities of color, and as an Alaskan my geographic community has expanded to Oregon. Among all of these communities there are some unique issues each faces, but there are some overlapping issues, around social inequity for example, that I would like to see changed. Since coming to the Foundation, I’ve learned so much about the external factors that impact one’s health and the health of communities. One change I would like to see is for the focus of health to be more holistic and community-focused rather than just focused on an individual’s physical health. Our social and physical environment, families, education, access to healthy food options, access to parks, access to affordable healthcare... all of these things impact our health. When focusing just on the physical health of an individual, you miss the whole picture by not taking into account all of those other factors that we may not necessarily have control of.

Q. How do you relate to NWHF’s mission?

The Foundation’s holistic vision of health and support of community-led solutions definitely resonates with me personally. As a Yup’ik Eskimo, a lot of our traditional cultural practices promote and support a healthy lifestyle. Those practices are not only physical, but emotional, spiritual and environmental. For example, subsistence hunting touches on all of these aspects. You have to be physically fit to hunt for wild game. When you get your first catch it is celebrated and the food is shared with the community. You give thanks for a successful hunt, and you don’t hunt for more than what you need. When someone doesn’t have the ability or resources to hunt for their food, they are not forgotten but are supported by the community. I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization that has a mission and values that align with my own.

Q. What was/is your favorite subject in school?

A. I love math. I looked forward to doing my math homework, and then I chose a college degree where I got to do math all the time. I don’t get to do much math in my graduate studies, but when I do I definitely look forward to it. In my 5th grade class we had these timed math tests: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with a bunch of problems. You had to see how many you could complete in the time allotted, and of those how many you got correct. It always came down to me and one other student.

I loved those quizzes! And I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I recreated them when I was in college, and I’ve recently thought about doing that again. I actually have a couple friends who are interested in taking them with me. It’ll be fun, and I play to win!

Q.  If you had a theme song, what would it be?

A. So I have a friend that loves to sing that “Take a load off Fannie” song to me almost every time we see each other. It’s kind of become my song now, so many people have sung it to me, and I just love that it inspires people to serenade me! So please, sing away!

I have to be honest though. I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics, but I definitely connect with the chorus line. I don’t just love it because it has my name in it. We all feel the weight of things every day, in our personal and work lives, and sometimes it’s not easy to lighten that weight, or there may be factors that are out of your control. But, having colleagues or friends and family that can help lighten that load is so important. I feel fortunate that I have that kind of support here at the Foundation.

NWHF Asks the Kids

With the launch of Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative, we wanted to speak to some of the key informants of our work. So our summer intern Nadia visited the Boys & Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan Area and asked the kids a couple questions...

Telling the story of equity

Telling the story of equity

Both Northwest Health Foundation and the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund support Coalition for a Livable Future's Regional Equity Atlas 2.0.

While interactive maps can tell a story about how public policies shape our opportunities for health, there are also stories that can highlight the everyday impact our policies have on the health of our neighbors. Thus the Equity Stories project.

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Board Member Darleen Ortega in the news

Transient

Our board member, Darleen Ortega, was profiled in today's Oregonian. Oregon and Northwest Health Foundation are lucky to have her!

From the story:

As a child, Darleen Ortega loved to read. She devoured books in school and dreamed of one day writing some of her own.

Now as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals, Ortega has, in a way, fulfilled that dream. Appellate decisions -- though dry -- are human stories, she jokes.

Ortega's own story touches on perseverance and the power of diverse perspectives. She is the first Latina and woman of color on the appellate court. Leading by example, she is working to diversify the field of law in Oregon. 

Ortega, 51, was born in California and grew up near Banks from age 10. Her family, a Mexican American mom, Caucasian dad, sister and two adopted African American brothers, was diverse -- an anomaly in the small community of Manning. It was a stark change from life in Los Angeles.

Read the rest here.

Partners Speak about Kaiser Permanente Community Fund

Partners Speak about Kaiser Permanente Community Fund

At the 2012 Kaiser Permanente Community Fund Summit, we asked some of our grantees and partners to tell us about their projects and what the fund means to them. This short video will give you an idea of some of the projects supported by the fund, and the impact it has had on our community.

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When We Count: From Data to Action

This the story of a Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) project funded by Northwest Health Foundation. The Coalition of Communities of Color and Portland State University worked together to generate data about the lived experience of people of color in Portland. The result: “Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile.”

For the first time in the city’s history, diverse communities held a leadership role in such a project. It was also the first time such robust data was generated for many populations, such as the African immigrant community.

Read the reports here.

Adelante Mujeres Nourishes the Community

Adelante Mujeres Nourishes the Community

In Washington County, research shows the health outcomes for Latinos are significantly worse than those of other ethnic backgrounds. The concentrated poverty for immigrant farmers, challenges of adapting to a new culture and poor urban planning have all added to the poor health of Washington County’s Latino population. However, it is also evident that lifestyle choices have also played a large role. For Adelante Mujeres, a Forest Grove, Oregon-based nonprofit, the solution lies in holistic education about health, food, and nutrition to inspire positive lifestyle changes.

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The Dreamer School: Higher Education Begins in First Grade

This is the story of Alder Elementary School, the first “Dreamer School” in the nation as part of an innovative collaboration between Friends of the Children and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Oregon. The project serves some of the community’s most vulnerable youth and encourages higher education beginning at a young age. Through a $50,000 implementation grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, the project builds on the success of the “I Have a Dream” foundation, and will expand the number of students served from 300 to 3,000 per year over the next decade.

Listening to Youth

Listening to Youth

It’s becoming increasingly clear that improving population health and reducing inequalities is related to our ability to create more space for leaders from the “millennial” generation.

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Improving Health for Iraqi Refugees

Improving Health for Iraqi Refugees

When calculating the costs of war, we often neglect the health and economic costs of traumatized immigrants coming to the U.S. as refugees from violent, and prolonged, conflicts in places such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite being tens of thousands of miles from the war zone, Oregon’s Iraqi population is still struggling with the resonating consequences of violence and displacement. Many who sought refuge and asylum in the United States from the first Iraq war continue to deal with lingering trauma - more than twenty years after immigration.

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Urban Oasis: Village Gardens and Village Market

Village Gardens and the Village Market are both examples of what can be accomplished when neighborhood residents, non-profits and government come together in support of people’s health and well-being. The project was funded by the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, among other organizations.

Highlands Does Better with a Community Coach

Highlands Does Better with a Community Coach

The Highlands neighborhood in Longview, Washington has, for decades, gone without many of the advantages enjoyed by other communities – a strong retail district, an adequate park, thriving social service organizations, etc. It’s also one of the poorest districts in the state and has some of the highest rates of unemployment, drug use, and debilitating medical conditions such as lung cancer and diabetes to be found anywhere. 

Clearly, the people who live there deserve better.

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Healing Decades of Trauma through Oral History

Healing Decades of Trauma through Oral History

Many Cambodians escaped the war, and settled in Oregon and Southwest Washington in the early 1980s as refugees. Even after thirty years, many Cambodians are still traumatized from their experiences, and are still unable to speak about them. As Cal State Long Beach sociology professor Leakhena Nou pointed out in Street Roots Magazine, the long term stress of this trauma can linger for decades, manifesting in diabetes, stroke, drug addiction, alcoholism, and family violence. “When you cut yourself deeply, a scar remains. That’s how I see the state of mind for the Cambodians.”

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Public Health and Zombies

Public Health and Zombies

“You can substitute any unforeseen public health hazard for ‘zombies’ and it would make perfect sense,” said one of the judges of Northwest Health Foundation’s  public health PSA contest. The point being that our public health departments are there to protect us from unforeseen threats.

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Finding Workforce Solutions to a Dental Care Crisis

Finding Workforce Solutions to a Dental Care Crisis

What’s the best way to ensure that everyone gets good dental care? Hint: It’s probably not the system currently in place today.

Northwest Health Foundation is helping explore whether it's time for the first new health profession in 50 years.

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Thomas Cully Park – A Dream Realized

Thomas Cully Park – A Dream Realized

When the sun is out, the children of Portland’s Cully neighborhood transform parking lots into soccer fields. The neighborhood, which shines with cultural flare and ethnic diversity, still has concentrated poverty, and an overall lack of access to nature. In fact, Cully, in outer Northeast Portland, has the lowest income per capita in the City. Many of the streets are without sidewalks and streetlights, and many more aren’t even paved.

While the regional average for residents per acre of public land is about 780 Cully has over 2,780 per acre of public land. Most people in Cully agree that they need – and deserve – a park in their neighborhood.

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