Ingela Dahlgren, RN, Executive Director, SEIU Nurse Alliance of California

“We don’t have to be in silos! We can all work together to make great headways! …Nurse Alliance is part of a global system…Issues here affect issues there!” said Ingela Dahlgren, RN, Executive Director of Nurse Alliance of California in her opening address October 9, at the 2015 National and International Natural Disaster Preparedness and Community Healthcare Conference in Pasadena.

Presenters for this conference were invited to address public health issues and challenges that ranged from global, to local, right down to the private factors that affect our lives. The key element in affecting change in all three presentations was EDUCATION! Specifically –

Educating our nurses! Educating the people!

Magdalena Barcelon, MD, from the Philippines, focused on global healthcare inequalities as they exist in her home country; Rosie Martinez, BSN, MSN, PHN and Harold Sterker, MPH, MHE, RD, shared the complexities of implementing public health solutions in LA County; and Shamika Ossey, RN, BSN, PHN, shared specific ways to increase emergency preparedness by educating for individual readiness and promoting community resilience.

All three presenters exuded passion for the work they do to help our world become a healthier place to live, and they all encouraged attendees to get involved because participation is the only way to affect change for the better.

“This is just the start of what we are going to see,” said Ingela as she encouraged fellow nurses to get the word out. She informed us that,

“Nurse Alliance has helped affect change in legislation and language in the laws to make sense. We encourage nurses to speak out!


Dr. Magdalena Barcelon, who flew in from the Philippines specifically for this event, shared her extensive knowledge of the healthcare situation in the Philippines in a compassionate and forward looking presentation about how people must get involved on a grassroots level.


Dr. Magdalena Barcelon, Coordinator of the Community Health Services Desk of the Community Medicine Development Foundation in the Philippines

“Rich country, poor people” was her description, explaining how globalization has affected healthcare through privatization, making it monetarily and logistically impossible for the poor to afford healthcare. To complicate matters, the exodus of educated healthcare workers from the Philippines to other countries in search of a sustainable salary, has left the country stripped of their ability to care for the common person.

“Only the wealthy have access and the ability to pay for care,” she said.

As part of a resolution to mitigate this problem, the people themselves have created a grassroots movement with Community Based Health Programs (CBHP). Although organizing and implementing CBHPs is time consuming and spotty, requiring great efforts, they are training locals to provide at least rudimentary healthcare to the poor people in small pockets of the Philippines.

Dr. Barcelon invited nurses and doctors and other volunteers to please come to the Philippines to help with their CBHP programs, saying,

“You don’t have to be a doctor to come and help.” Please click here to download the HEALTH VOLUNTEER’S FORM .

Dr. Barcelon is based in Manila, Philippines, and currently serves as coordinator of the Community Health Services Desk of the Community Medicine Development Foundation.

Rosie Martinez and Harold Sterker presented the three core functions of LA County: Assessment, Assurance, and Policy Development.


Rosie Martinez, PHN, MSN and Harold Sterker, MPH

“Our job is to know what needs to be done, be part of the solution, and make sure something happens,” said Harold Sterker in his description of the process. Harold worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for 40 years and served as Public Health Commissioner of the State of California.

From determining how to provide water to put out massive fires, to determining who needs potable drinking water and how to deliver it, to providing a system of doctor referrals after discovering health needs through individual screenings, the Public Health Commission’s responsibilities span the gamut of providing for overarching community needs all the way to providing for individual healthcare needs.

9.9 million people are served by the LA public health system. Public Health Centers are the lifeline for getting care for those without insurance,” said Rosie Martinez, who worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for 28 years and has won awards for her many contributions to society throughout California and overseas.

“Public Health is a team effort. It’s a matrix of people working together – 39 divisions work to provide enormous services,” said Rosie in her impassioned presentation.

“The ROI is great when we educate people! Spend a little now to educate, and get people to be independent and productive citizens in the future,” said Harold in a final statement regarding educating young pregnant women who would otherwise end up halting their education and work opportunities, and likely remain dependent on an overburdened system.

Both Rosie and Harold sit on the Executive Board of Directors of SEIU Local 721 and continue to work tirelessly to affect change for the better.

Shamika Ossey provided a host of practical and potentially lifesaving suggestions for individuals and communities to practice in preparation for disasters, which can be unpredictable in timing and scope. “The greater the devastation, the greater the involvement we will need to have,” says Shamika, “as emergency responders are likely to be overwhelmed, communications can be cut off, and help can be delayed.”


ShamikaOssey, RN, BSN, PHN

Shamika engaged the attendees at the conference by asking them to think about and suggest ways we can get involved at our work places, schools and communities to create readiness for disasters. From determining emergency contacts and safe places to congregate, to packing important papers, medications and emergency kits with potable water and nonperishable food items, Shamika had the group thinking and evaluating ways to not only prepare individually, but to be able to reach out to others who might need our help in a time of chaos and confusion.

One suggestion was for people to investigate the CERT programs offered in different communities. CERT – Community Emergency Response Team – was developed by the LA Fire Department after the Whittier disaster in which there weren’t enough trained people to help. It is now a standardized program throughout the USA which trains lay people to be first responders in emergency disasters.

Shamika has functioned as a District Public Health Nurse and is currently functioning as an Emergency Preparedness Public Health Nurse and Community Liaison Public Health Nurse for the County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Health.

Again, the thrust was for EDUCATION and OUTREACH!

This event proved to be very engaging and informative! Participant evaluations gave high praise and top scores for all of our speakers, the venue, and event organization. Here are some quotes from our evaluations:

“Excellent host” “Excellent topics” “Motivation to help Global Health” Eye opener to learn about healthcare in the Philippines” “Informative” “Great place, space, food!”

Some participants mentioned an interest in going to the Philippines to assist with the Community Based Health Programs.

We at Nurse Alliance of California encourage you, as nurses and people who can make an important difference, to please

Get Educated, Be Prepared, and Participate!

You can do this by continuing to attend these conferences. They are tailored for you! … So you can learn from our presenters, participate in valuable conversations and make your voices heard.

All you have to do is show up!

We guarantee you will find the inspiration and routes to affect positive change in your workplace and in the world!

We hope to see you at our next event! Stay tuned!

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Nurse Alliance of California

Article by Theresa Fellmann

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