Students learn from policy makers at CSU-wide health policy conference

Author: Department of Public Health
May 10, 2023
Collage of students inside and outside conference

Students and faculty from campuses across CSU met for the CSU Health Policy Conference, held April 10-12 in Sacramento. Students majoring in public health or related health sciences were joined by faculty to get a unique opportunity to see firsthand how public health policy is made and shaped. The conference included meetings with state legislators, administration officials, policy advocates and staff from the state Department of Public Health. Below are some of the students’ impressions:

Shea Hazarian, MPH Program

Despite living in Sacramento for several years, I had almost no exposure to state policy. Several speakers throughout the conference told us that as Californians, we should take ownership of our state government — but government is also an insular world. I’m grateful to the community organizers that told us to stay determined and take up space. In the end, I felt empowered by our visits to legislative offices. I was inspired by the people we met who showed up every day to fight for more just policies in incremental ways.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear from both policymakers and state public health leaders that mental health was a growing priority in health policy. I strongly believe that mental health must be addressed through prevention in addition to individual services, but I have not seen this reflected in the structure of public health departments. I’m hopeful that a change is coming — led by some of the passionate students who attended this conference.

Austin-Thayer Marfori, Undergraduate

The Public Health Conference in Sacramento gave me a realistic perspective into the policy making world of California’s government. Having the opportunity to speak to elected officials, policy advocates and politicians changed my opinion on how private problems become a statewide issue to address. Prior to the conference, my knowledge on policy making was limited to what I learned in class and what we I read about in media. I went into the conference expecting to gain insight on how policies are made. The conference motivated me to continue advocating for issues I feel are important to myself and the community but also provided me with a reality check on bureaucracy.

Carlton Mwalili, Undergraduate

I am very grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to attend the 10th Annual Health Policy Conference hosted by the California State University system. I thought of it as a culminating experience before my graduation to learn about the legislative process within public health policy in state legislature.

The highlight of the trip was getting to understand better how the state budget is approved in California, which is an expression of the society and the citizens it represents. I would recommend this conference to future public health students including students majoring in government, political science or simply those who are curious about how the day to day in workings of state government happen. It was also a great networking opportunity, and thanks to SF State for organizing it. Go Gators! 

Charles Yeh, Undergraduate

My academic career as a public health student here at San Francisco State University has emphasized heavily on the importance of community-based organization and the power of activism. I had very limited knowledge about the politics and inner-workings of our state’s legislative system. When I was offered to go to the CSU Health Policy Conference, I was really ecstatic to be a part of this trip. Having said that, I really did not know what to expect. Over the course of two days, I have been blown away and learned so much of what goes on in Sacramento. The people that were brought to speak to the CSU students had intimate knowledge of the conversations that are being had with our state leaders or were elected politicians themselves. I felt especially privileged to listen to was the Mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg. Listening to Mayor Steinberg recall his career and talk about specific legislations he pushed for really put into perspective on how much passion is needed within this field. Personally, I was intimidated and nervous due to how official the whole experience was with the assembly members and their staff. Still, that whole experience might have been some of the coolest opportunities I have had as a student.