Stories & News
Adriana Pecina joined Health Forward when it was a fledgling foundation, and she brought with her a wealth of experience in philanthropy. She has co-led our Healthy Communities initiative for many years, including the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy, which has helped connect and grow leaders across our region. She is passionate, warm, optimistic, and known as an advocate for community-driven change. Adriana is excited to celebrate her “quinceañera” (15-year tenure) at Health Forward on the same week we announced our new purpose and strategies. Here are some of her thoughts on her time at Health Forward.
Cori: How did you originally get connected with Health Forward?
Adriana: I heard about this new health foundation that was being developed with significant community input. Many community members told me about their engagement and excitement about its creation. We all know that equitable access to high-quality education and health care is the foundation for a thriving family and economy. With this in mind, I, too, began to get excited as I learned that many members of the new foundation’s leadership team and staff were people from my community, and some of them were also fellow colleagues and mentors during our tenure at the Kauffman Foundation.
Cori: What are some of your favorite memories of Health Forward?
Adriana: Some of my favorite memories are from the early days, when our offices were housed in the Metropolitan Community College’s Pioneer campus, on the corner of 18th and Prospect. We were a small but mighty team committed to eliminating barriers to quality health. We spent a lot of time together, not just working, but sharing our lunchtime and ordering from local food establishments, including food trucks. Some of our grantees shared the building with us, and we would have great check-in meetings on the way in and out of the parking lot.
Over the years we’ve also had many associate outings with our families — tailgating at Kauffman Stadium, and attending Sporting KC soccer games and KC Mavericks hockey just to name a few.
Another fond memory (there are really too many to count) is seeing many causes/concepts come to fruition with our investment and having our site visits to experience the work in action. I have been so blessed and impressed with our community members — these are the most innovative, dedicated leaders committed to a healthier community.
Cori: How has Health Forward changed during your tenure?
Adriana: I don’t think of it as “change” as much as our growth and evolution. We’re moving more upstream and addressing the social influencers of health. We are still committed to creating healthy people in healthy communities. We acknowledge that those closest to the problems are closest to the solutions, and I’m excited that we will be working with our communities to find solutions that address the source of the problems.
This will be hard, so it is vital to have the workforce that can make it happen. It’s so comforting that Health Forward’s staff has doubled in size since I joined the team 15 years ago.
I’m honored to work with an amazing group of professionals that truly care about our community and fulfilling our mission. Our staff growth has given us the capacity to partner more with nonprofits and make a larger impact. Especially in this pandemic, health disparities are visibly amplified and outpaced resources, however, each team member is working hard to rise to the challenge.
Cori: What are you most proud of from your time at Health Forward?
Adriana: I am most proud of my very first assignment as a program officer at Health Forward Foundation. I championed the HPV initiative that increased HPV vaccination rates among young women (ages 19-26) in our region who did not have health insurance. This was the first and only vaccination that helps protect individuals from getting many different types of cancer that are associated with different HPV strains. Since it was a three-shot series at the time, we worked feverishly with our partners to ensure that we promoted the free vaccine opportunity in a culturally relevant manner across the community, in schools, community centers, and even bathroom stalls at bars and restaurants.
I’m also very proud of the Cultural Competency Collective that has operated in partnership with other local funders. This effort created a network of cultural competency champions in more than 30 organizations. Additionally, the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy provided adaptive leadership training to 100 change agents in our region. These initiatives both have a positive and lasting impact on our community.
Cori: Where do you think Health Forward will be 15 years from now?
Adriana: In 15 years, Health Forward will have been the catalyst in ensuring that systems, policies, and practices throughout our region are equitable and just places that foster economic inclusion. While the work ahead will be a challenge, with community leadership and a vital workforce, we can make change happen.
On Adriana’s 15th anniversary, we also wanted to hear from some of her colleagues. I asked the Health Forward team about Adriana, and this is what I heard:
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