SAN DIEGO, December 2022 – “Equity is not a path forward, it is the path forward,” is a phrase you can hear often around the offices at the Institute for Public Strategies and is embedded in our office culture. CEO/President Brenda Simmons, who has been at the helm for more than three years, says IPS is committed to transforming the social determinants of health so that individuals – regardless of their race, culture, economic circumstances, sexual orientation, gender identity, or educational attainment – have the opportunity to live their best lives.
IPS celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022 as a public health organization leading the way on upstream prevention projects across the United States. Since 1992, IPS has been directing multiple government- and foundation-funded projects throughout the country, with offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties, as well as Maryland and Montana.
Our mission is to work alongside communities to build power, challenge systems of inequity, protect health, and improve quality of life. The mission is based on an understanding that most health-related problems are preventable and most health disparities stem from unjust community and social conditions. Equity is listed first among IPS’s core values, which also include diversity, empowerment, systems change, results, and integrity. It is not enough to eliminate policies that create or perpetuate social/racial inequity and injustice; we need new policies and practices in place that actively reverse the harm that was caused, according to Simmons.
“What IPS is most proud of now is our community partnerships with other like-minded agencies and community groups doing similar work, as well as with our funders,” Simmons said. “These partnerships allow us to do our best work and to make a difference.”
Former Board Member James Baker founded IPS with the original focus on being of service to communities by providing media advocacy services, training and technical assistance. “Over 30 years, IPS began operating its own projects, performing prevention implementation on large research initiatives and providing technical assistance and training to many government agencies and program operators across the nation,” Baker said. “IPS now partners with communities to advance quality of life and transform the conditions and systems that perpetuate inequity, poor health, and lack of opportunity in order to create vital, thriving, and inclusive communities.”
IPS has emerged as a leader in program design and implementation of environmental – also known as upstream – prevention in the public health and safety field, having worked on dozens of state-, county-, and community-level projects, including the Community Trials to Reduce Alcohol Trauma project and the American Medical Association-led A Matter Of Degree (AMOD) – a college-community alcohol and binge drinking prevention program.
IPS’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion begins at the Board of Directors level.
“When everyone has the opportunity to live to their full potential, that’s when we have achieved equity,” said IPS Board Member Dana Sherrod. “We are cultivating a sense of community cohesion by developing and advocating for changes to policies and systems that work as barriers to equity.”
IPS has also expanded into providing training webinars online, on topics including utilizing public art in prevention; breaking the cycle of adverse childhood experiences; using GIS maps to advocate for healthier communities; making the case for harm reduction; engaging youth through technology and many others.
Our work starts with the belief that systems and policies have worked to the advantage of some and disadvantage of others. This manifests in disinvested communities, educational failures, wealth gaps, community trauma, structural racism, and other types of harm to our neighborhoods. Ensuring that everybody is able to thrive where they live, work, and play means that we must address their access to quality education and healthcare, housing security, economic stability, safe neighborhoods, and support systems.
Whether our projects address alcohol-related harms, promote food security, engage immigrant youth who have been victimized by the War on Drugs to become civic leaders, or reduce health disparities among the Latinx community in San Diego’s Southern Border Region, we recognize that our work must be applied through a lens of equity.
We look forward to another successful 30 years and beyond.
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