SACRAMENTO — Dr. Xavier Morales has a lot to bring to the table as the new executive director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.
He was appointed to the position by the coalition’s board and started his new job on April 17.Morales, who was born in Reedley and raised in Sanger, has 20 years of experience in public health, urban planning and community development research.
“I am so excited to be the executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California,” said Morales, who has been a longtime advocate for health equity and environmental justice.
Morales’ goal is to continue the vision of the Latino Coalition of improving health in California.
“It’s a good place to be,” Morales said of his new position.
On the topic of health equity, Morales agrees with The California Endowment approach that people’s life expectancy is determined by those things that make people healthy in the area they live.
For example, Morales said if you compare two people with the same race and genetic history, a person who lives in Parlier, a rural town in the San Joaquín Valley and a person who lives in Beverly Hills, the life expectancy between the two is 15 to 20 years difference.
Morales said the difference it is not because of genetics but because of the factors that determinate health – such as having access to good jobs, education, healthy food, open spaces, etc.
“To me this life expectancy differences, they are really about social justice,” Morales said. “In some communities they have a lot of things, and another communities don’t have very much. And in some communities in the Valley, they can’t even drink clean water. It is cheaper to drink sodas than water and so what does to their health.”
“To me this issue of health, what we are trying to accomplish, is an issue of justice, is an issue of equity,” Morales said, adding that with his new position at LCHC he will be able to continue his long time advocacy efforts for health equity.
“I have a board that understand this perspective,” Morales said. “These are the movers and shakers, these guys are the, who is who in Latino health and I just feel really lucky to be working with them.”
“LCHC under Xavier’s leadership is expected to amplify its role as a champion for access to health care for all, and for health-supportive conditions where Latinos live, work, and go to school,” said board chair Genoveva Islas-Hooker.Morales, 48, remembers his passion for social justice and equity started back when he was a fifth-grader living with his family in Reedley.
Back then, Morales said he was the paper boy for The Fresno Bee and remembers reading about children in the town of McFarland that were getting sick with cancer.
Morales, who is married and has one child, said reading those series — and the official argument if it was a “cancer cluster” or not in McFarland — made him think about why nobody was doing anything to stop arguing and do something for those children.
That motivated him to go to study environmental science and to get the skills to be able to go back to any community and help communities to advocate for themselves.
“My definition of health is education, it’s health care access, it’s fresh fruit and vegetables, it’s quality education, and it’s jobs. For me all of that is health,” Morales said. “So when we talk about the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, I am finally in the position where I can actually put everything I wanted to learn since I was in fifth grade to use.”
Before coming to work in Sacramento as the executive director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Morales was the program manager at the Prevention Institute in Oakland.
Morales worked in the areas of health equity and violence prevention.Morales said when people think of violence prevention they usually think more police on patrol.
However, Morales said that form him, violence prevention is “more programs for the youth,” like urban gardening, better schools engagement, and art and sport programs among others.He also worked as a community based researched in Arizona. He is also has experience in grant writing, program designer evaluator and facilitator of community driven initiatives.
Morales has a Ph.D. degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University, a master degree in regional planning from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from UC Berkeley. He graduated from Sanger High School.
Morales has served in many professional advisory and boards including Greater Kelly Community and Committee for Environmental Justice Action, City of Phoenix Workforce Connection, City of Phoenix Youth Initiatives Committee, and Educational Initiative Advisory Board and Pioneering Healthy Communities Advisory Board for YMCA of the USA.
He also has published work and conducted research including a project to update and develop a tool for community led activities to address health inequity.
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