How to get involved in creating healthier neighborhoods

A transformation is underway in Los Angeles. People are lifting their voices in support of healthy neighborhoods. These voices are shaping land use decisions, influencing infrastructure investments, and changing how neighborhoods look and feel.

Part of what makes Los Angeles such a dynamic county is its diversity in race, ethnicity,  culture, and economics. We see this diversity reflected in the art, music, histories, languages, and stories that flourish here.  Even as Los Angeles changes, it can still be a home for people at all levels of income and provide meaningful opportunities that allow people to sustain families and meet more than just their basic needs. Los Angeles can be a place where people fulfill their hopes and dreams.    

As two alumnae of UCLA’s School of Public Health, we are proud to see UCLA students, faculty, and alumni working throughout the County to help ensure that everyone has the resources and opportunities they need to achieve optimal health and wellbeing.  Often, this requires us to nudge institutions, change policies, and shift resources so things are more fair and efficient for people of color and low income people. These groups most frequently experience unfair and unjust exposures in the environment, lack access to safe, habitable and affordable housing and quality jobs, live in neighborhoods with fewer high quality parks, stores, schools and sidewalks, and are more burdened with stores selling unhealthy products, and community violence. At the same time, these neighborhoods are rich in love, creativity, and a sense of belonging and culture. These are the values we can encourage and uplift even as we create healthier neighborhoods with spaces and places for all people.

Although we have many challenges to take on, Los Angeles is full of skilled people working in amazing organizations to solve tough issues.  The Durfee Foundation is just one of LA’s philanthropic organizations committed to supporting individuals and organizations addressing LA’s big challenges with big solutions.  The organization we work for, Prevention Institute, brings on interns every year to support our work. One of our efforts, the Healthy Equitable Active Land Use (HEALU) Network (supported by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and The California Endowment) was born out of our passion for creating healthy neighborhoods that are inclusive and create conditions for people of color and low income people to thrive.

The HEALU Network includes some of the organizations mentioned in Manal Aboelata’s TEDxUCLA Salon talk on April 24th. These groups work on a range of issues including active transportation, parks, affordable housing, safe routes to school, environmental law, and public health. The groups use diverse approaches including grassroots organizing, community development, and strategic policy and advocacy.  

For everyone who expressed interest in getting involved, here’s a short list of some of the organizations that we admire that might be a great place for you to volunteer, support a current campaign, or just learn more about what’s happening in the County!

If you’d like to be involved in the movement to create healthy neighborhoods, we encourage you to learn more about LA’s rich tapestry of organizations and the work they do. Each organization and each campaign is at a different stage. Involvement may look like grassroots outreach, volunteering, writing a letter of support to decision makers, or even supporting their efforts on social media.

We couldn’t mention everything these organizations do, so you will have to “do your homework” to learn more, but a few project highlights are listed below by organization.

Community Intelligence*

  • The Making Connections Network

Los Angeles Food Policy Council*

  • LA Street Vendor Campaign
  • Good Food Purchasing Program

East LA Community Corporation*

  • LA Street Vendor Campaign
  • Affordable Housing
  • Transit Oriented Development
  • Planning

Esperanza Community Housing Corporation

  • Healthy Homes
  • Promotoras de salud
  • Mercado la Paloma


LA Trust for Children’s Health

  • School Wellness Centers
  • Oral Health

Natural Resources Defense Council*

Prevention Institute*

  • LA County Community Prevention & Population Health Taskforce
  • Healthy Equitable, Active Land Use Network

Occidental College*

Pacoima Beautiful*

The Nature Conservancy*

Investing in Place*

  • Los Angeles Sidewalk Campaign
  • Measure M Implementation

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition*

  • Metro Rail First/Last Mile

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust*

  • Building Urban Parks and Gardens

* Indicates a member of the HEALU Network


This blog post was written by Manal J Aboelata, MPH, UCLA School of Public Health (’01), managing director at Prevention Institute & TEDxUCLA Salon Speaker and Ana Bonilla, MURP UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, MPH UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.