4th Annual

Local Leaders Shine on National Stage




People championing health equity always look to see what the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is doing.  It’s one of the largest, most influential health foundations in the country.

In early December, it was the foundation asking Elizabeth Bustos for her take on equity.

“To have everything flipped and have the foundation ask me about our work so we can inform their work was amazing,” said Bustos, Director of Community Engagement for Be There San Diego .

The RWJF presented Bustos and Rev. Gerald Brown with a 2017 Award for Health Equity at a special event at its home in Princeton, N.J., on Dec. 6. 

The project was one of nine that received the RWJF Award for Health Equity, for “building a culture of health by recognizing and celebrating individuals who have successfully changed systems and policies that reduced health disparities and move the nation to health equity.”

Bustos directs the Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project and Rev. Brown, the project’s partner, is executive director of the United African American Ministerial Action Council.

The SE San Diego project, entering its fourth year, supports faith-based organizations to help their members improve their heart health. Each congregation develops its own program to do so, supported by BTSD. The project is made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through its Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) initiative.

The award raised the project’s profile to a national level and enabled Bustos and Brown to share best practices of how they have been able to build trust in the African American community, connect participating congregations to each other and to healthcare providers, all to improve the heart health of community members.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which seeks “to change the culture of health,” honored nine organizations in all with its Health Equity Awards. Each of their directors was interviewed individually about their transformational work, and those videos will be posted online on YouTube in January. At the awards presentation, they shared their experience in a panel discussion attended by foundation staff, stakeholders and directors of partner organizations, including the National Civic League, which honored Bustos and Brown at its convention in June in Denver.

“Regardless of ethnicity or circumstance, everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to be healthier. This the work of health equity,” said Dwayne C. Proctor, senior advisor to the foundation’s president. “The 2017 Health Equity Award winners are challenging and changing systems and long-held beliefs, and forging new policies, practices and partnerships to improve health equity in communities across the U.S.”

Bustos reflected on the national recognition the project received.

“In reality it’s the churches and mosque in our project that won this great award,” she said. “They are the ones that have worked hard countless of hours to improve the health of their members, one heart at a time.”

Tags:  Newsletter, 2018

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