For over 20 years, Blanca Meléndrez, MA, has utilized her forward-thinking leadership 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. 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, First 5, Prevention Institute, and Foundations such as The California Endowment and Alliance Healthcare Foundation. She oversees numerous contracts and programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Education Program and the Diabetes Prevention Program, funded through the County of San Diego by USDA and CDC. Her large-scale nutrition education and obesity prevention experience and expertise also includes her work as the Director in charge of USDA funded programs such as the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP) Training and Resource Center for San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties; the Network for a Healthy California – San Diego and Imperial Counties; and the Southern California Nutrition Incentive Program, also known as Más Fresco, More Fresh.
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. These team members have successfully established themselves as content experts on school wellness, healthy retail, faith-based wellness, healthy food systems, and worksite wellness initiatives.
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 20 years. Over the past three years alone, she has secured over 11 million dollars in grant funding for the Center. Blanca and her team have developed new programs from the ground up and significantly expanded the reach of existing programs and projects through partnership and collaboration. Her 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.