Manal J. Aboelata
Manal J. Aboelata, Deputy Executive Director
“All of my work is a labor of love. It is all part of a single, interconnected, and multi-generational effort to achieve health justice for all.”
Manal J. Aboelata has over two decades of experience and leadership in public health research and practice. She has received several prestigious honors including induction into the Delta Omega Public Health Honorary Society, Iota Chapter (UCLA) in 2001 and the UCLA School of Public Health Alumni Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2012, Manal was recognized as a “Shero” of California’s 26th Senate District for her leadership and engagement. In 2017, she was awarded a Stanton Fellowship from the Durfee Foundation. In 2018, Manal and her husband, Dr. Randal Henry, were recognized by the Fathers and Families Coalition of America as a Couple of Excellence.
Manal has been with Prevention Institute since nearly its inception, serving as program assistant, program manager, and program director. Since 2012, she has served as managing director, a senior leadership role that entails organizational strategy and fund development, staff supervision, and programmatic oversight. Manal leads Prevention Institute’s Los Angeles office in Leimert Park.
For ten years, Manal led the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, a statewide network of over 900 members working to prevent chronic disease through a focus on built environment and food policy in California. Manal founded and chaired the Joint Use Statewide Taskforce (JUST) to increase access to school playgrounds through agreements between school districts and local governments. This taskforce catalyzed national funding and new policies and practices to advance shared use of school facilities. She currently oversees Prevention Institute’s California community prevention and health equity strategy and facilitates the Healthy, Equitable, Active Land Use (HEALU) Network, a Los Angeles-based collaborative transforming the norms and culture of land use and planning so that residents envision, plan, and oversee the creation of healthy, equitable neighborhood environments.
“The Healthy, Equitable, Active Land Use Network was formed to promote policies and practices in Los Angeles’ land use system that support health and social equity. We are joined by a shared belief that healthy, equitable land use can be intentionally produced through strategic, multisector action. We moved into this work because of how the political landscape affects our partners and the communities in which we work. We are learning together and building bridges across our work to create healthier communities for diverse people.”
Manal’s work focuses on communities that have been under-resourced and seeks to integrate prevention and health equity into policies and organizational practices. One common thread in Manal’s work is collaboration; whether in partnerships or coalitions, she sees organizational networks as essential to building the power necessary for systems changes on the scale needed to improve people’s lives.
“We cannot succeed in advancing health equity if we do not also address racial justice and social equity. We are thinking deeply about these issues and talking to people across the country in local health departments and community-based organizations and learning together about how to continuously grow and improve our efforts.”
A dynamic public speaker and a skilled facilitator, Manal also regularly writes about health equity, the built environment, and prevention practice. She is principal author of numerous professional publications, including Healing Neighborhoods, Healthy Development without Displacement: Realizing the Vision of Healthy Communities for all; The Built Environment and Health: 11 Profiles of Neighborhood Transformation; Mapping the Movement for Healthy Food and Activity Environments: Organizational Snapshot; and A Decade of Advocacy: The Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments. She is a contributing author to Cultivating Common Ground: Linking Health and Sustainable Agriculture; The Role of Community Culture in Efforts to Create Healthier, Safer, and More Equitable Places: A Community Health Practitioner Workbook; and co-author of “Emerging Issues in Improving Food and Physical Activity Environments: Strategies for Addressing Land Use, Transportation, and Safety in Three California-Wide Initiatives,” published in the American Journal of Public Health. Manal is a contributing author of “Latino Children’s Health and the Environment,” the first chapter in At Risk: Latino Children’s Health, and she co-authored, “Community Engagement in Design and Planning,” Chapter 19 in Howard Frumkin and Andrew Dannenberg’s text, Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Wellbeing, and Sustainability. Under contract with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Manal contributed to and oversaw Prevention Institute’s team that produced A Practitioner’s Guide for Advancing Health Equity: Community Strategies for Preventing Chronic Disease.
Seeking to broaden the impact of prevention practice on community health and wellbeing, Manal serves on public committees and boards of community-based organizations to encourage funding, practice, and policy decisions that improve quality of life in Los Angeles and California. She became the inaugural co-chair of the Community Prevention & Population Health Task Force as an appointee of the Honorable Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (2nd District).
From 2012-2017, Manal served as a board member of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, an organization dedicated to acquiring land and holding it in the public domain to provide parks and open space in neighborhoods lacking access to safe places to play, garden, and be physically active. As chair of the Land Trust, she supported the organization as it expanded its portfolio of parks and playgrounds in neighborhoods with low household incomes and completed a ground-breaking deal to acquire and clean up a former brownfield in support of community-voiced goals to have a park for young people to safely play.
Manal serves as strategic advisor to Community Intelligence, a multicultural research and evaluation firm established by her husband, to advance community wellbeing through systems change on key issues facing communities. In 2017, she joined the Technical Advisory Committee of the California Future Health Workforce Commission, to elevate the importance of a prevention and public health workforce that will improve health outcomes across the State. To advance health and safety outcomes through sound investments in the built environment, Manal was appointed to the Measure A Implementation Steering Committee. The committee was tasked with developing program guidelines for the parcel tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2016, which will raise $94 million every year in perpetuity to reduce gang violence and create safe parks and playgrounds in high priority areas. In 2016, Manal was one of 39 people appointed by California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird to update the Master Plan for the Lower Los Angeles River, a 12-mile segment of the river running through South and Southeast Los Angeles.
“We must lay out a bold vision of what we are working for, building on California’s track record of making effective investments in healthy, safe, and resilient communities. These are investments that save lives, save money, prevent needless suffering, and make our state a formidable economic and social force.”
Manal is certified as a California walkability expert by the California Department of Health Services and CalTrans. She has conducted many walkable community workshops in urban and rural low-income communities and communities of color. With her family, she founded a neighborhood-based walking group, CrenshawWalks, to provide a local voice and social support for walking.
Manal holds a master’s degree in public health, with a concentration in epidemiology, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA in American Studies, with a focus on health and women of color, from the University of California, Berkeley.