Focusing on the Health & Wellbeing of Cloverdale’s Elders

3 min read. A major grant from The SCAN Foundation underwrites a new "ECO Group" to research drivers of health inequities and explore solutions.

On Thursday, February 8, the Healthcare Foundation joined community partners and community members in Cloverdale in the public launch of a new community-based initiative to highlight the major challenges to health and wellbeing for low-income seniors in the northern Sonoma County town — and to formulate solutions. 

The initiative, made possible through a grant from The SCAN Foundation in partnership with the California Health Care Foundation, will create an Equity Community Organizing (ECO) Group in Cloverdale that will engage seniors, as well as other local residents and stakeholders, in identifying the drivers of health inequities for older residents as well as exploring solutions for aging in health, wellbeing and community. Partnering organizations supported by the grant include Alexander Valley Healthcare, Cloverdale Senior Center, La Familia Sana, Nuestra Comunidad, On the Margins, and Sonoma County’s Council on Aging.

The Cloverdale ECO Group will meet regularly over 18 months at the Cloverdale Senior Center and other locations for charlas y cafecitos (Coffee and Conversations) to share experiences, identify priorities and solutions, and collaborate on ideas. The data and experiences collected and the solutions explored will culminate in a final report shared with Cloverdale residents, government and other stakeholders as a tool to catalyze change. The ECO Group process is also expected to produce informal and/or formal partnerships conducive to the project’s goals of inclusion and equity for older residents.

The ECO Group project dovetails with and builds on “Nuestra Comunidad Sana,” the 2022 initiative by the Healthcare Foundation and a coalition of local community-based organizations that is currently underway in Cloverdale with the aim to realize a community-envisioned plan for a Community Wellness Center there.

The ECO Group will further support the county effort around California’s Master Plan for Aging — a developing “blueprint” for state and local government as well as the private and philanthropic sectors which seeks to address coming demographic changes by building a “California for All Ages” by 2030.

The grant comes as part of The SCAN Foundation’s Advancing Health Equity in Aging initiative, launched in the fall of 2022 in partnership with the California Health Care Foundation. To learn more about this initiative, and the ECO Group component, we spoke with Erin Westphal, Program Officer at The SCAN Foundation, who attended the Thursday event in Cloverdale along with President and CEO Sarita A. Mohanty and Vice President of Programs, Equity, and Community Impact Rigo J. Saborio. 

What is the work you oversee as Program Officer at The SCAN Foundation?

The SCAN Foundation’s (Foundation) mission is to ignite bold and equitable changes in how older adults age both in home and community. We work to achieve this mission through strengthening the aging and health infrastructure, enhancing financial stability to age in place, and ensuring equitable aging for all. My work at the Foundation focuses on strengthening the infrastructure through research and policy changes and ensuring equitable aging for all through the ECO Groups.

“The goal of the ECO Group is to support a community solution to reduce the health inequities older adults face.”

Erin Westphal, Program Officer, The SCAN Foundation

What is the aim of the ECO Groups?

The goal of the ECO is to support a community solution to reduce the health inequities older adults face. 

The Foundation is supporting this goal through leveraging existing work by convening, organizing, and joining leaders in the aging, disability, racial equity and social justice sectors, along with older adults with lived experience. We understand that older adults from marginalized communities face persistent inequities related to healthcare access and outcomes. We also know that the often siloed and disconnected approach to addressing health inequities across the lifespan — and the exclusion of the voices of older adults with lived experience who are the most impacted — increases the negative impact of systemic inequities persistent as we age.

The ECO Groups are part of a larger body of work, the Advancing Health Equity in Aging Initiative, which is designed to identify the root causes of health inequities as people age and improve the lives of older adults from historically marginalized communities with a specific focus on older adults of color. The Initiative aims to address the structural inequities that are caused by an uneven distribution of power, while harnessing interventions directly from the community.

How do you see the various grantee organizations contributing to this end?

Through creating the ECO Groups, organizations will ensure that people in the community are at the table; they’re shifting power to the community and supporting community members in identifying the issue(s) and potential solutions they see.

A total of four grantees, comprising communities and partnering organizations across the state, have been selected to address root causes of inequities for older adults in California. Each of these ECO Groups will: 

  1. Collectively mobilize to focus on a key theme and selected sub-issue (e.g., Health, Economic & Environmental Wellbeing, Cultures of Belonging and Care);
  2. Develop action and engagement plans to identify issues in their communities and strategies to address them; and
  3. Elevate the voices of older adults in their communities to choose how they will influence policies, programs, and/or services that impact them directly.

What are your thoughts on visiting Cloverdale as the site of one of the ECO Groups?

It was wonderful to be in Cloverdale. I enjoyed meeting the community partner organizations as well as members of the community. It was wonderful to hear more about how the community is coming together and the success and challenges they have experienced in the past. I left feeling inspired and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

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