The Center at Sierra Health Foundation announced an ambitious initiative Thursday, donating $3 million to 69 nonprofit groups — 11 of which are Kern County-based — to create policy change aimed at creating better health outcomes for those struggling in the San Joaquin Valley.

Those groups are backed by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, a coalition of nonprofits founded to address health disparities and factors impacting health including air quality, housing and environmental justice.

The funding comes just four months after the same organization released a report highlighting chronic health issues in the area, among them that valley children are poor, hungry, undereducated and at a greater risk of ending up in jail than those raised in any other region of the state.

“California’s famous for two valleys: the Central Valley for food, and Silicon Valley for technology. If you want to make California golden, the way we think about it, both have to prosper,” Sierra Health Foundation President and CEO Chet P. Hewitt said.

The money isn’t going toward programs, which could be short-lived, but would fund groups creating policy change that could have long-term impacts, Hewitt said.

In Kern County, organizations will be working on increasing affordable housing collaborations, advancing progressive immigrants rights, addressing health issues among farm workers, creating a pilot bike share program in Arvin and mobilizing youth to get engaged around policy decisions, among other things.

​Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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