CEO Q&A: Dr. Diana Bontá, California Wellness Foundation (Extended)

California Wellness Foundation CEO and president Dr. Diana Bontá speaks with Bernadette Casey about healthcare in low-income communities

Talk about efforts to expand healthcare services for low-income communities of color.
Passage of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010 presented opportunities and significant challenges for the healthcare safety net, the network of clinics and hospitals that provide care for uninsured and underinsured Californians. While the law will expand coverage and funding to provide care to the newly insured, millions of Californians, notably immigrant families, will still be uninsured and rely on community clinics. 

We have funded nearly $20 million for the healthcare safety net and capacity building so clinics and hospitals can prepare to compete in the new healthcare environment.

We have also awarded more than $6 million for in-creasing the healthcare workforce and its diversity, as well as $1 million for advocacy and public policy efforts.

How do you promote the work of grant recipients?
We use our electronic and print communication vehicles and the conferences to disseminate the critical work of grantees. A recent edition of the foundation's Grantee magazine featured a cover story that highlights health workforce training programs funded by our organization.

Additionally, we placed more than 500 stories in print, broad- cast, and Internet media. We are also looking to expand our use of digital media. We want to build upon our tradition of storytelling by expanding the reach of our communications to new audiences and better serve existing ones.

How are you expanding awareness of the brand?
Since its founding in 1992, our foundation has awarded 6,544 grants totaling more than $815 million. We have impacted the lives of many Californians and we have some of the best staff who act as ambassadors.

This community work has been our brand - a grantmaker that is empathetic, respectful, engaged, and responsive. That is why I'm excited to be here.

Is there a specific initiative that will be a priority for you and the foundation in the coming six months? How will you conduct PR around that initiative?
My first year here can be best characterized as one of listening. My objective is to meet and hear what stakeholders in the field – and others who work with nonprofit organizations – would like to see us funding in the future. The timing works since our board is leading a strategic planning process to see what future grantmaking will be after 2014, when our present program sunsets.

In June, we will launch a special section on and in our publications to seek feedback. Some of the PR efforts include interviews with key media and publications in philanthropy, health-focused trade publications, and building upon our public education campaign to increase the health workforce and its diversity.

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