Organizing for Public Health Leadership Academy (OPHLA)


 Here at CPEHN, we are building power with an ecology of community leaders who will unlock the power and potential of public health to drive community-driven systems change.

Why do we organize for public health?

“Public health” has entered the American lexicon since the onset of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, inviting questions from many around what it is and what it looks like in practice. Some have started to associate public health as a professional practice (for example, stopping the spread of an infectious disease) or a specific governmental department (for example, the California Department of Public Health). While this development is exciting for many, questions remain even for practitioners in the field around how “public health” connects to community rooted organizations and the broader social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter and Free Palestine. How do we leverage public health as a practice to work towards our collective health and liberation? 

At CPEHN, we believe that public health is a powerful practice of approaching our collective health from addressing the root causes and holding systems accountable. The power of public health as a science and an art, lies in its rigor from data and research, but also from stories, culture, heritage, and community-rooted wellness and safety practices. We recognize in order for us to achieve our collective health and liberation, advocacy and organizing need to be at front and center of public health practices. We draw inspiration from the origin and history of this field, not just from well-known examples taught in public health schools, such as Dr John Snow’s advocacy in the 1800s, but also from Black and Indigenous people-led health affirming initiatives, such as the free community health clinics and food pantry that the Black Panthers Party opened in the 1960s and 1970s.

We firmly believe that the solutions for the well-being and liberation of our people start from the wisdom of our communities. CPEHN’s Organizing for Public Health Leadership Academy (OPHLA) supports community organizers to leverage public health as a tool and practice to institutionalize that wisdom.

Participate in the 2024-2025 OPHLA Cohort!

Interested in joining? You can find the application for Organizing for Public Health Leadership Academy below:

Apply here!

Program Overview

Organizing for Public Health Leadership Academy is an innovative 20-month program, designed and led by CPEHN and Human Impact Partners to build power with community organizers towards our collective health and liberation. The program builds capacity and leadership in community advocates and organizers to leverage “public health” as a field of practice and as a tool to deepen their advocacy. Participants will receive support and guidance as they identify key issues in their community and form policy solutions with a public health approach as well as an abolitionist lens. Participants will also build relationships with each other and key governmental allies and state/local public health officials to deepen their advocacy. 

CPEHN is dedicated to supporting a generation of organizers and advocates who are unafraid to challenge the status quo. Join us in a transformative journey to building life affirming institutions and healthy communities for all. 

The 2024-2025 cohort starts in March 2024.

Pictured here: Sophie Simon Ortiz, from HIP, looking at a chart paper titled “Build [Systems] What is the future of public health that you want to see, and what role do you have to play in this work?” with colorful sticky notes of participants’ answers.

Who should apply?

  • Advocates or organizers with work or lived- experience around health equity. Specifically, we invite applicants from LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, Immigrants communities and people with disabilities to apply.
  • You are employed at a 501(c)(3) community organization in California.
  • You are already working on a sociopolitical issue that impacts health, such as housing or food security, climate change and environmental justice, community safety and alternatives to incarceration, etc.
  • We welcome applicants with varying levels of familiarity and experience with public health, organizing, and policy advocacy. 
  • You are passionate about building community and identifying root-cause solutions to create the future we want.

What does OPHLA offer to participants?

  • Training, coaching, and technical assistance directly from CPEHN and HIP
  • Guest speaking sessions (past speakers include: California Department of Public Health, Berkeley Media Studies Group, California Budget & Policy Center, Central California Public Health Consortium, etc)
  • Monthly meetings (about 80% virtual/over Zoom, 20% in person) 
  • A 20-month curriculum that dives deep into frameworks and strategies such as 
    • Defining and redefining public health
    • Introduction to the Prison Industrial Complex and abolition
    • Applying an abolitionist framework to public health
    • Policy development
    • County budget
    • Narrative development and strategic communications
    • Power mapping and landscape analyses
    • Inside-outside government strategies 
  • Lasting relationships and a network of like-minded people!

Interested in Learning More?

For more information about our network, please view and download our power point presentation below.

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Key Dates:

  • Application Opens: November 8, 2023
  • Application Closes: January 5, 2024
  • Program Dates: March 2024 – October 2025

2022-2023 Cohort Participants:  

  • Asian American Liberation Network  
  • Asian Solidarity Collective 
  • Central Valley Urban Institute 
  • Decarcerate Sacramento 
  • Empowering Pacific Islander Communities 
  • Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition  
  • Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project 
  • Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies 
  • Partnerships for the Advancement of New Americans 
  • Pomona Economic Opportunity Center 
  • Roots Community Health Center 
  • Vision Y Compromiso 
  • Human Impact Partners (technical assistance provider) 

For questions about CPEHN’s Organizing for Public Health Leadership Academy, reach out to Weiyu Zhang, Policy Director at or Navneet Virk, Senior Community Advocacy Associate at