2008 Regional Hero – Barbara Staggers, M.D., M.P.H

For her leadership in promoting adolescent health, particularly among high-risk, urban, and minority youth

Barbara Staggers is a nationally recognized authority on the medical, psychosocial, and psychobiological needs of adolescents. She is well-versed on such topics as eating disorders; developing/raising healthy adolescents; health care needs of adolescents; issues of diversity in adolescent health care; reproductive health issues of adolescents; violence in adolescents; issues of the abused adolescent; and adolescent suicide, substance abuse, and mental health.

Staggers is director of adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. In 2002, she cofounded the “Faces for the Future” internship program to inspire and support minority students who are interested in pursuing careers in health care. The program has had a 90 percent retention rate for its graduates and has shown great success in encouraging students to stay in school and to pursue a college education.

In 2005, she unveiled a school-based health clinic at McClymonds High School in West Oakland. The Chappell Hayes Health Center is recognized as a national model for school reform to combat West Oakland’s notorious levels of violence, homicide, abuse, and dropout rates. A second and more expansive health clinic opened between Youth Uprising and Castlemont High School in East Oakland.

Staggers also runs the Outreach and Training Cores of the Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She has received numerous awards, including the National Child Labor Committee Award, the National Violence Prevention Council Angel of Peace Award, the UC Berkeley Peter E. Haas Public Service Award, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health Alumna of the Year Award.

Award Presenter Wilma Chan

As a California State assemblywoman, Wilma Chan represented the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont from 2000 to 2006. She was the Assembly Majority Leader from 2000 to 2004 and served on the Assembly Budget Committee and Education Finance Subcommittee. During her six years in the Assembly, she passed more than 70 bills and resolutions. Chan authored legislation to phase out birth defect and cancer causing chemicals in California; expanded preschool opportunities for toddlers by working to gain $100 million in the state budget; and carried landmark legislation to make affordable health insurance available to 800,000 uninsured California children.

The Challenge: Creating a Healthy Future for Adolescents

It is a truism that healthy children become healthy adults. During the transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescents face many unique health challenges. High-risk, urban, and/or minority youth often face increased health risks, such as tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; reproductive health issues; poor nutrition; and gang violence. Health problems can directly and indirectly affect adolescents’ performance at school as well, which can lead to negative future outcomes.

Taking steps to address current health risks and eliminate potential future ones will result in healthier adolescents, which in turn will strengthen our communities and society as a whole. Public school health centers such as the Chappell Hayes Health Center, many of which are located in underserved communities, function as engines of community-wide revitalization —improving the life chances of teens and youth, supporting families, and strengthening neighborhoods. Other steps to improve adolescent health include nutrition programs, physical education programs, and health curriculum in schools.

The UC Berkeley School of Public Health Responds

  • Emily Ozer, assistant professor of community health and human development, conducts research in urban high schools to study the potential power of participatory research approaches as a means of promoting the healthy development of youth trained as action researchers, and of improving the effectiveness of school-based prevention programs in the areas of violence and substance abuse.
  • The School’s Center for Public Health Practice places students in community-based internships, many with local nonprofits that assist at-risk youth and adolescents. For example, interns have worked with Berkeley Youth Alternatives, an agency that councils teenagers in nutrition education and health promotion.
  • Amani Nuru-Jeter, assistant professor in the divisions of Community Health & Human Development and Epidemiology, examines the links between social inequalities and racial disparities in health. She looks at how social factors, such as the availability of healthy food options and safe space for outdoor activity, influence health outcomes.

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