Over the next few weeks, each of our three new team members will introduce themselves to you here. This week, meet Esther Postiglione, our State Policy Manager, based in Sacramento.
Growing up in the Central Valley, I understood at a very young age that not all communities are created equal. While I certainly didn’t have the understanding or language around health disparities and social inequities that I do now, I was visibly reminded every day that some parts of my city had sidewalks, beautiful parks, grocery stores, and active places, while places like where I grew up didn’t. On my block, there were no sidewalks. On my block, we had a liquor-convenience store that kept the neighborhood supplied with candy, chips, beer, and cigarettes; while marking up the cost of necessities like bread and milk. And on my block, while there were parks, we felt that they were too unsafe to use.
With a family history of preventable chronic disease, I started my career aiming to help people through health education. However, as my career unfolded, I began to see how the places where I worked and lived were riddled with unjust access to healthy food and opportunities to be physically active. I knew that the environments where residents lived couldn’t support a healthy lifestyle and that they simply couldn’t put the health information I’d share into practice. So I decided to shift focus and try to work upstream by addressing head on the issues that create the disparities in health and communities. It was in this new context that I began to understand what I had recognized when I was younger: The communities I’ve served have been historically disenfranchised through public policies that have failed to recognize the impact on health. I recognized that we made the built environment the way it is now through intentional transportation, housing, and land-use policies and decisions, and with that same intentionality, we can make communities healthier and more vibrant where everyone can thrive.
Just prior to joining California Walks, I worked at Cultiva La Salud, where we championed efforts to promote and advance policies that increase access to healthy food and physical activity opportunities. We made great strides in addressing policy that would begin to tackle the gap in active transportation opportunities and investments for disadvantaged communities at the local level. As a result of our work, the City of Fresno adopted a point-based prioritization rubric for active transportation projects, with a large number of points based on equity. In Orange Cove, our community engagement efforts ensured inclusion of projects residents wanted to see in the Regional Active Transportation Plan.
The communities and populations I’ve worked with are extremely diverse—not only in the people I’ve served, but also in the geographies. I’ve worked in both rural and urban settings, and am familiar with the diversity of our Northern, Central, and Southern regions. The desire to continue to serve the communities of the Central Valley and the entire State are what led me to California Walks. I look forward to helping advance active transportation with a focus on public health and health in all policies at the state level, and to helping create opportunities for more active transportation for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities.