For over 15 years, Blanca Meléndrez, MA, has utilized her forward-thinking leadership skills, her strong communication skills, bilingual and bicultural skills, and her strong passion for community health to implement innovative methods to improve health within the state of California for those most underserved. As Executive Director for the Center for Community Health at the University of California, San Diego, Blanca leads efforts to enact environmental, systems, and policy changes aimed at preventing obesity and its related chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, by increasing access to healthy foods and physical activity through a health equity lens.
She has worked tirelessly to foster local, statewide, and national partnerships, bringing stakeholders from the public and private sector together to develop programs and initiatives to improve health outcomes for California’s low-income residents and underserved neighborhoods. As the Center’s Director, Blanca collaborates with agencies including: the California Department of Public Health, US Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, county health departments in Riverside, San Bernardino, Inyo and Imperial, First 5, and the Institute of Medicine. She oversees numerous contracts and programs including both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Education Program and the Inland Desert Training and Resource Center, funded by California’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant.
Under Blanca’s guidance, her team of over 30 implements a wide-range of evidence-based, practice-based, and innovative activities to support low-income Californians’ rights to live healthy lifestyles. To accomplish this, Blanca’s team engages in multifaceted, community-driven projects such as: corner store conversions with local agriculture partnerships, worksite wellness in low-income industries, healthy food and physical activity policy changes in school and faith-based settings, among others.
Blanca’s extensive experience in community engagement, community-based initiatives, human resources, event planning, project management, public relations, and marketing has been instrumental to the Center’s growth and development over the past 15 years. Over the past few years alone, she has secured over 15 million dollars in grant funding for the Center. Blanca’s long-standing dedication to the community and unwavering commitment to promote optimal health in all populations is an immense asset to UC San Diego and its work within San Diego County and statewide.