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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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SDSU President Adela de la Torre, joined by Nick Macchione, director SD County HHSA (far left), Nathan Fletcher, SD County supervisor, and Steven Hooker dean of SDSU CHHS, during signing ceremony.

SDSU, San Diego County Health Form a New Academic Health Department

The new partnership expands student opportunities, research, training, and workforce development for public health and human services in San Diego County.
By Peggy Pico

San Diego State University and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) have announced the creation of a new Academic Health and Human Services department, The Live Well Center for Innovation and Leadership. 


After years of working together in clinical research, internships, and successful pandemic-response projects, the university and agency became official partners following Thursday’s signing of a five-year agreement.   


“I am very proud that the already strong partnership between SDSU and the County’s Health and Human Services Agency will continue to grow and expand after today,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre. 


“Through the Live Well Center for Innovation and Leadership, we are creating something new,” said de la Torre. “There will be a focus on workforce development and county internships for SDSU students in public health and social work, creating a highly educated and better-trained workforce to address many of the health disparities pervasive in our community today.” 


San Diego’s HHSA does more than many traditional public health services and addresses complex community health issues including housing, homelessness, hunger, and child, family, and adult well-being. 


Simultaneously, SDSU’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) students and faculty conduct extensive research projects and explore innovative methods to tackle health disparities and emerging public health issues in the region’s urban and rural communities.


Described as a holistic and unique approach to integrating resources with SDSU’s Schools of Social Work, Public Health, Nursing, and Mental Health programs, the collaboration will address county-wide health issues, including child welfare, aging, behavioral health, and housing insecurity. 


“This type of partnership is a first in the State of California,” said Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “We will be streamlining workforce development through new internships and training, and this will be a great relationship as we continue to scale up our behavioral health workforce. Together we can keep the local talent local and prepare them to meet public health needs of our region.”


The joint venture also creates a formal pipeline connecting HHSA and SDSU researchers. And it will streamline workforce development through new internship opportunities, with hands-on cross-training opportunities for CHHS students. 


“The new partnership will provide substantial experiential learning experiences and more internships to better equip our students for jobs that will enhance and maintain the health of diverse communities,” said Steven Hooker, dean of SDSU’s College of Health and Human Services. 


Faculty and the public will also benefit from a closer connection with the county’s many health initiatives to further expand research collaborations. Hooker said, “Practices based on robust research will translate to better health outcomes among county residents of all ages, backgrounds, and locations.” 


The diversity of HHSA's many departments ranges from Aging and Independence Services to Housing and Community Development to Self-Sufficiency Services, offering a broad scope of services and opportunities for students, researchers, and health professionals. 


“The launch of the Live Well Center for Innovation & Leadership will accelerate our already productive partnership with the university,” said Nick Macchione, director of the County Health and Human Services Agency. “We are excited for how faculty and the addition of more graduates with lived experiences, and fresh thinking in areas of high public concern, will contribute to a healthy, safe, and thriving community.” 


SDSU’s School of Public Health is consistently ranked among the best in the nation. And, with the recent signing of California’s Senate Bill 684, SDSU can now offer independent doctoral degrees in public health.


“The Live Well Center for Innovation and Leadership sets the foundation for that doctoral program, creating a unique new experiential learning opportunity where our students can apply what they are learning in a real-world community setting helping the HHSA and helping our neighbors,” said president de la Torre. “As California’s first academic health department, this is a model for other municipalities in the state to follow.” 


The Center’s launch, she added, “will make the County of San Diego a healthier, safer place for its citizens.”