META-Oak PhotoVoice Gallery

On May 31, 2017, California Adolescent Health Collaborative hosted a showing of our META-Oak PhotoVoice Gallery at Betti Ono in downtown Oakland. META-Oak is short for “Marketing of E-Cigarettes Towards Adolescents in Oakland” and our coalition of youth researchers put together the PhotoVoice Gallery event to showcase images and captions our youth researchers gathered to answer the question: “What are youth perceptions and responses towards the Electronic Cigarette marketing and messages they encounter?” Celebrate the findings and accomplishments of our youth researchers, and check out the pictures below!

For more information, check out the META-Oak section of our website, or email

Breastfeeding study aims to break barriers



The California Adolescent Health Collaborative's Breastfeeding Among Young Mothers research project was featured this February by Alec Rosenberg of the UC Newsroom. Read the article here or on the University of California website.

Breastfeeding isn’t only good for babies. It’s also good for the health of mothers. It helps moms bond with their newborns, recover from childbirth and can reduce their risks of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.

But breastfeeding rates are low for young moms, particularly low-income women of color.

An innovative study — funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program with the help of donations from state tax filers — aims to address that issue and boost breastfeeding rates among young moms.

“It could really make a difference on the public health level,” said co-investigator Alison Chopel. “If we find ways to increase breastfeeding, we’ll see future savings to taxpayers.”

Chopel’s interests in the breastfeeding study are both personal and professional. She has firsthand experience as a young mother.

“I was aimless and barely making it through high school,” she said. “Having a child changed my perspective. It put me on a completely different path.”

Chopel now directs the California Adolescent Health Collaborative for the Public Health Institute and is teaming on the breastfeeding study with Danielle Soto of Brighter Beginnings, a nonprofit working to support children and families.

When Brighter Beginnings surveyed young moms, it found that only 3 percent still breastfed after six months, compared with more than half of mothers nationally.

Identifying barriers

Young moms know about the importance of breastfeeding, but they face social and structural barriers, Soto said.

The 18-month study, supported by $150,000 in funding, aims to identify those barriers and develop interventions.

A key barrier seems to be the stigma of being a young mom.

“They experience a lot of stigma and unwanted advice as young mothers,” Chopel said. “A lot of people feel they shouldn’t be mothers. They are judged. It makes it more challenging to breastfeed in public.”

The researchers have been studying mothers 16-24 years old, most of whom are African American or Latina. They have been mapping where the mothers do and don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding.

“Some say they would never breastfeed on BART. Another said she might,” said Elva Castellanos with the Public Health Institute. “One said she would never breastfeed at church. One said she would feel comfortable there. One 17-year-old mom said, ‘I wouldn’t breastfeed anywhere.’ There were no places she felt comfortable.”

Finding a safe space to breastfeed can be a barrier. Many young moms go to school, work or do both. For example, one mom worked nights and didn’t feel safe sitting in a parking lot at night pumping milk, Chopel said.

Caregiver attitudes also can be a barrier.

“Young mothers rely heavily on others to help with child care,” Chopel said. “They can be susceptible to the opinions of those around them.”

Involving the community

The study’s community-based approach has helped increase its relevance, rigor and reach, researchers said. They formed an advisory committee that helped select key community stakeholders to interview about young moms. Then, building on Brighter Beginnings’ relationships with its clients, they found young moms and their decision-making partners to participate in the study. One of the young moms, Bre’Jaynae Joiner, also became a co-investigator on the project.

“It’s incredibly valuable,” Soto said. “We are doing research not just on young mothers but with young mothers. We are doing taxpayer-funded research with taxpayers.”

Once they analyze the mapping data, the researchers will design potential interventions, which they hope to pilot at multiple sites in a follow-up study. They also plan to share their research results not only with the scientific community but with the public as well, such as tabling at health fairs.

“It’s a perfect marriage between research, partnership and public health,” Soto said.

The California Breast Cancer Research Program is one of two University of California-administered cancer research programs that taxpayers can support with voluntary contributions when they file state income taxes. These programs aim to prevent breast, lung and other cancers, and increase survival rates by funding cutting-edge research and health education such as the breastfeeding study.

“This study exemplifies how tax check-off contributions help us identify tangible solutions for elevated breast cancer risk in underserved communities,” said Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch, director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program. “Through their generous contributions, Californians are leading the way in advancing breast cancer research and increasing our arsenal of strategies to prevent the disease.”

Happy Holidays from CAHC!


Wishing you happy holidays and a memorable new year.

Dear Community,

This holiday season, I have been reflecting on what holidays mean. There are so many different traditions and a multitude of ways to celebrate, but all traditions and celebrations, at their core, are similar. Essentially, the holidays are about community, about taking the time to be with loved ones and to express values we hold like generosity, gratitude, and service, among others.

With these values in mind, I wanted to reach out to the California Adolescent Health Collaborative community, our many wonderful partners, supporters, colleagues, and participants, and say, "Thank you" - thank you for being a part of our community. While we don't always have the opportunity to convene in person, we value our ties with each of you and hope you will continue to stay connected with us online through FacebookTwitter, and our website.  

We have accomplished so much together this year, so I wanted to share with you a special sampling:

  • We've provided (and continue to provide) healthy relationships education, comprehensive sex ed, and technological vocational education to nearly 200 young people in the Central Valley.
  • We've trained five youth co-researchers with whom we have collaboratively conducted and analyzed 15 interviews exploring social and structural factors that influence breastfeeding among young mothers, and created over 90 photo-narratives on the marketing of E-Cigarettes to young people in Oakland.
  • We've launched a new project with Asian Health Services in Oakland and Livingston Community Health in the Central Valley. This project will aim to build and connect inter-generational research boards in these two diverse communities. 

This year, we've also spent time as a team working with the fabulous Nicole Sirivansanti in order to articulate the values that are foundational to all of the work that we do, values that we proudly share with you this season.

Our values inform our current work, partnerships, internal team functioning, and future directions:

1. Youth: 

Youth are valued partners in all our work, they hold meaningful decision-making roles in our programs and our teams. We reject adultism and the systemic stigmatization of adolescents.

2. Collaboration:

We engage with people, organizations and movements as allies. We strategically lead, partner, or follow in our collaborative initiatives. We are students of collective impact.

3. Health:

We ascribe to the WHO definition of health: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

4. Social Justice:

We recognize that patterns of health and illness are shaped by social structures and systems; to improve and protect our health, youth health, and community health we must change systems.

5. Innovation:

In order to make change, we need to change the way we do business. We use research methods to answer new questions and innovate new solutions. 

6. Equity Focused:

With limited resources we strategically focus on identifying populations and communities with the greatest opportunity to add value.

7. Scrappiness:

We believe in our work, are passionate about quality and outcomes, and are responsible stewards of resources that have been entrusted to us.

8. Humor:

Humor is essential to wellness, communication, and team chemistry. 

9.  Cultural Humility:

We choose to be humble, curious, and always learning.

With gratitude for our community, we at CAHC wish you all the happiest of holidays, and we look forward to a wonderfully productive and joyful 2017.

Warm wishes,

Alison, Bre'Jaynae, Chelsey, Elizabeth, Elva, Gayle, Julia, Katie, Robert

The California Adolescent Health Collaborative Team

Youth Addressing Adolescent Relationship Abuse in the Central Valley

Teens in Modesto and Riverbank are learning the danger of abusive relationships and just how pervasive they are – especially among young people. This year, they will be spreading awareness to other high school students as part of a pilot project being watched statewide. Read more here: