George R. Flores, MD, MPH, a lifelong advocate for the disadvantaged with a focus on Hispanic and childhood health, is being honored with the 2016 Helen Rodriguez-Trìas Social Justice Award. First given in 2005, the award honors public health workers who have worked toward social justice for underserved and disadvantaged populations.
As program manager for the California Endowment's Healthy California Prevention team, Flores’ current work focuses on grant-making to improve health and equity through community-level prevention and a transformational health workforce. With a grant portfolio of over $20 million, his visionary strategy addresses health equity by improving social and environmental factors that shape health outcomes for disadvantaged communities.
A relentless public health advocate, Flores’ professional colleagues have praised his dedication to bridging clinical and public health practices to improve health outcomes for underserved communities. His work has encouraged governmental and nongovernmental organizations to move from a traditional services approach to a more comprehensive series of community interventions that address both the root causes of poor health and disease as well as their connections to jobs, educational opportunities, and the transportation and environmental factors that impact health and behavior.
“Over the last 30 years, George has focused on the eradication of health disparities and the promotion of equity in health through connections between primary care and community-based prevention,” said Jose Pietro Aparicio, MD, MPH, president of the APHA Latino Caucus for Public Health. “As a physician, professor, researcher, manager, mentor and public health advocate, George's social justice stand for health equity has not waivered. He makes the time to listen to all, bridge relationships, and move forward conversations that have transformed policy and systems to effect health equity.”
Previously, Flores served as public health officer in San Diego and Sonoma counties; clinical assistant professor for the University of California-San Francisco Family Practice Residency Program; director of Project HOPE in Guatemala; and deputy health officer in Santa Barbara County. In 2011, he was recognized by the National Hispanic Medical Association as 2011 Physician of the Year for his work addressing social and environmental inequities and the role of communities in advancing policy and systems change to improve health.
He is a co-founder of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; a member of two then-Institute of Medicine committees that published the milestone reports: “Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance” and “The Future of the Public's Health in the 21st Century”; and is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Roundtable on Population Health Improvement.
Flores has authored numerous articles, presentations and reports for diverse audiences on topics including obesity and chronic disease prevention, community health, immigrant health, health disparities and environmental health policy. His articles have been featured in a number of publications, including the American Journal of Public Health, American Journal of Preventive Medicine and Preventing Chronic Disease.
“Like Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias, George is an inspiration and a role model who has made it his life's work to meet the needs of underserved and disadvantaged populations, especially Latinos and children,” said Beatriz M. Solis, PhD, MPH, program director of Healthy Communities South Region at the California Endowment. “In his own words, George's vision is ‘for every community to be a healthy, safe and supportive place to raise children, go to school, work and play.’ Dr. Flores has shown great fortitude in fulfilling his vision through his laudatory career of medical service, grantmaking, research, writing, leadership, mentorship and systems change.”