Published On: October 12, 2022

UCLA competition provides funding to students and community organizations to address health inequity

UCLA Health Equity Challenge to award up to $200,000 to develop solutions to health equity issues in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties ​​

Media Contact:
UCLA CHPR Communications Team

Health equity has become a priority across various organizations, especially during the past 2 1/2 years. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified disparities, a spotlight was placed on inequities that have long existed across multiple social policy domains in California and across the nation.

The UCLA Health Equity Challenge, conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) in collaboration with the MolinaCares Accord and the California Health Care Foundation, is providing an opportunity for UCLA graduate students to become part of the solution. Starting October 12, 2022, the competition invites UCLA graduate students to propose solutions to address a health equity issue that community-based organizations (CBOs) can implement within their practices.

"Participating in the UCLA Health Equity Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for students who are passionate about providing equal care for all Californians,” said Kathryn G. Kietzman​, director of the Health Equity Program at the UCLA CHPR. “Not only does this challenge equip finalists with the tools to succeed in the field of health policy, it allows them to channel creativity in how equal access to care is promoted across the state.” 

UCLA graduate students are invited to submit a two-page application​ that identifies a current health equity issue in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, or Riverside counties and a short description of an intervention that could be implemented by a local community-based organization. Proposals can span direct interventions, program development, policy changes, or other innovative ideas. Concept proposals are welcome from disciplines that intersect with health, including policy, education, law, urban planning, psychology, and others.

Applications are due on Monday, November 7, 2022.

Fifteen (15) finalists will be selected for the full competition. Each finalist will be provided a $2,500 stipend and over the course of 15 weeks, work with a faculty or community mentor, participate in trainings, write a blog, select a community organization that can implement the project, and develop a full project proposal. Projects must be feasible and have measurable outcomes to improve an identified community health issue. An Independent Review Committee will review the proposals and up to four (4) students will be awarded an additional $2,500 stipend, and each community partner organization will receive up to $50,000 to implement the project.

The inaugural UCLA Health Equity Challenge kicked off in January 2022 with 10 finalists who developed projects on various communities that experience significant inequities, including LGBTQ+ people, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, immigrants, older adults and Black girls. 

In June 2022, UCLA graduate students Angelica Johnsen and Alma Lopez were selected as the grand prize winners of the inaugural challenge, and their community partners were awarded $50,000 each to fund and implement their proposals. Lopez’s project is a pilot for SHIELDS for Families to evaluate English and Spanish online peer support groups as an intervention for mothers of color with perinatal depression in South LA. Johnsen’s project idea is helping Charles R. Drew University develop a mental health de-escalation toolkit for medical providers, including students at the university, so that the next generation of health professionals will have the training needed to stabilize patients experiencing a mental health crisis.

Up to four final proposals will be selected by the Independent Review Committee and four associated CBOs will receive funding of up to $50,000 for implementation. The winning students will receive an additional $2,500 stipend to continue documenting the experience of the project’s implementation.

“MolinaCares knows from our work across California, and across the country that health disparities are widespread and require ongoing resources and solutions to resolve. We are excited to partner with UCLA to invest in the public health leaders of tomorrow and spur creative thinking on how to solve persistent issues faced by vulnerable communities across California”, said Abbie Totten, MolinaCares representative and Plan President of Molina Healthcare of California.​

UCLA CHPR, MolinaCares, and the California Health Care Foundation hosted an information session Oct. 17, during which UCLA graduate students had the opportunity to get additional details about the program. Watch the information session video.
Key Dates

  • Oct. 12, 2022: Applications open.
  • Oct. 17 2022: Information Session webinar, noon to 1 p.m. PT.
  • Nov. 7, 2022: Applications due by 5 p.m. PT. Apply here.
  • Mid-December 2022: Fifteen (15) UCLA graduate students will be selected to participate in the final round and receive a $2,500 stipend.
  • Jan. 9, 2023–April 28, 2023: Students will work with their mentors to develop their full project proposal. Students will participate in health policy and program development training and create blog posts.
  • Early June 2023: Up to four (4) winners will be announced at an awards ceremony. Each student will receive an additional $2,500 stipend and up to $50,000 will be awarded to their community organization to implement the proposed project.

Visit the Health Equity Challenge website.

-- About the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) is one of the nation’s leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health policy information for California. UCLA CHPR improves the public’s health through high quality, objective, and evidence-based research and data that informs effective policymaking. UCLA CHPR is the home of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and is part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

About The MolinaCares Accord
Established by Molina Healthcare, Inc., The MolinaCares Accord oversees a community investment platform created to improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged populations by funding meaningful, measurable, and innovative programs and solutions that improve health, life, and living in local communities.

About Molina Healthcare of California
Molina Healthcare of California has been providing government-funded care for over 40 years. The Company serves members through Medi-Cal, Medicare, Medicare-Medicaid (Duals) and Covered California (Marketplace). Molina’s service areas include Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Orange County, and Imperial counties. Through its locally operated health plans, Molina Healthcare, Inc., a FORTUNE 500 company, served approximately 4.8 million members as of September 30, 2021. For more information about Molina Healthcare of California, visit

About the California Health Care Foundation The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. The California Health Care Foundation works to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford. For more information, visit  ​