Spring 2018 Message from the Chair

Viola Lujan, HAB45 Executive Chair


Dear Leadership Council members and community partners,

2017 was an exciting year for Healthy & Active Before 5!  Building on a decade of successes in the area of early childhood obesity prevention, we formally made the shift to focus on overall health equity for children ages 0-5 in Contra Costa.

While our work has always been grounded in equity and informed by the social determinants of health, this expanded focus will allow us to tackle a broader range of issues affecting our communities. For example, in 2017 we worked to prioritize the protection of immigrant communities’ rights and continued access to services.

As we prepared to take on these new challenges, we also continued to carry out core activities to strengthen partnerships and expand access to healthy eating and physical activity.

  • We held two Leadership Council convenings, where we shared up-to-date information about changes to the social safety net, and discussed what health equity means for the populations we serve.
  • We continued to support healthier environments through our Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy Initiative, providing technical assistance and mini-grant funds for four new policies in 2017.
  • As a key partner in the Contra Costa Parks Equity & Improvement project, we celebrated ribbon cuttings at several renovated parks and completed an assessment of parks in Bay Point.

Last summer, we enthusiastically welcomed our new Director, Ali Uscilka. I want to acknowledge all members of the Executive Committee, who worked tirelessly and collaboratively to keep our work going while we faced staff shortages. It has been my pleasure to serve as Healthy & Active Before 5’s Executive Chair for the past year. Later this month we will welcome Ruth Fernández, MA as the new Chair. Ruth is the Deputy Director of First 5 Contra Costa, and brings a wealth of experience to the table. I am confident that her leadership will be invaluable!

I would like to thank those of you who passed policies, attended our events, and provided your expertise over the past year. It is your participation that makes our collaborative so successful.  We look forward to working with you in 2018!


Viola Lujan

Executive Chair, Healthy & Active Before 5

Director of Business and Community Relations, La Clínica


breastfeeding partners policy success

Survey Results: Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy

Once a policy is implemented, then what?

Healthy and Active Before 5 (HAB45) decided to find out what happens once a new policy is implemented. In November 2017, we invited all organizations who have passed healthy organizational policies, through our Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy Initiative, to participate in a survey. Staff from 14 organizations responded to the survey, with each of the major model policies of the initiative represented.



Positive changes

Our respondents shared many positive stories about how their organization’s policies have changed the environment for clients and staff.


 “Our organization only provides water and/or naturally flavored water. We’ve had occasions in which a community member will bring in a juice or soda, and participants typically know and will kindly speak out on it.”


Healthier vending options, outdoor staff meetings, reduced availability of soda, and a well-supplied lactation room are all examples of these positive changes. In some cases, healthy policies served as a catalyst for further activities to promote the health of young children and families.


“Richmond WIC is very breastfeeding-friendly. The breastfeeding room was a catalyst to start breastfeeding support groups, which are the only free public breastfeeding support groups in West County.”


Mini-grant funds

HAB45 provides mini-grants to organizations who pass healthy policies. Survey respondents reported how funds were spent:

  • Activity sets for children
  • Water bottles, containers, filters
  • Breastfeeding room furniture
  • Exercise equipment
  • Outdoor Activity fees
  • Staff training
  • Breastfeeding materials & supplies
  • Landscape architect fees
  • Bikes to go between offices
  • Healthy foods & beverages


Implementing and sustaining positive change

79% of respondents selected “strongly agree” when asked if their organization’s policy had been implemented successfully soon after it passed.

Only 50% of respondents strongly agreed when asked if the changes had been sustained over time.

The most common challenges reflected in the survey responses were related to staff. Staff turnover presents a particular challenge, because new staff may not be fully informed of the healthy policies.

As one respondent at an organization with a healthy food policy said:

 “The policy initially had an impact on the beverages and foods that staff brought to potlucks and staff were eating healthier. Now, we have several new staff who I do not feel are aware of the healthy snack policy.”

 However, another respondent from an organization that does provide information on their wellness policy to new staff stated,

“The wellness policy gives us a clear way to explain our office rules to new staff.”

Breaking old habits

In addition to challenges related to new staff’s awareness of healthy policies, several respondents mentioned resistance from staff or the difficulty of “breaking old habits” as a barrier to successful implementation.

Respondents described several other challenges, such as lack of enforcement from leadership, the ongoing work of maintaining changes to the physical space, and sustaining changes across multiple sites or programs.

Next Steps

Based on these findings, HAB45 will work with respondents and other partners to deepen the implementation of their healthy policies with additional trainings, enhanced documentation & materials for new staff. We will also provide opportunities to share best practices among agencies who have passed policies.

For their part, survey respondents reported that they are working to promote their policies with partners, consistently bring activities in line with the policies, and further their programming, activities, and internal policies to support the health of all staff and clients.

Thank you to all of the organizations who have passed healthy policies! We realize this work doesn’t end when a policy is passed. We appreciate your ongoing commitment to creating healthier environments for children and families in Contra Costa. If you would like support with implementing an existing policy or passing a new one, please let us know.


Welcome our New Director!

We are pleased to welcome Ali Uscilka, MPH as the new Program Director for Healthy & Active Before Five!

Ali comes to this position after nine years of teaching, publishing, and engaging the community through a wide range of programs to advance social justice, reduce health disparities, and empower communities. She is skilled in policy research and has extensive advocacy experience at the state and local levels. She has excellent communication, time management, and organizational skills as well. She knows and embraces the Health Equity and Social Justice model for effecting change for the betterment of vulnerable communities across Contra Costa County.  She has demonstrated a deep commitment to addressing social determinants of health, and to improving access, quality, and financial sustainability of the safety net for young children and their families. She has proven herself to be a team player, an advocate, and a systems thinker. Ali received her Master’s in Public Health from San Francisco State University in 2010 with a Distinguished Graduate Award for outstanding academic performance and service.

Please join me in welcoming Ali.  We are thrilled to have her join our team as the Program Director and spokesperson of HAB45. Her official start date was June 12th and she is located at the offices of CoCoKids in Concord.

You can expect to meet Ali in person at upcoming Contra Costa stakeholder meetings soon!

Viola Lujan
Healthy & Active Before 5 Executive Chair