Rachel Davis, Executive Director
As an organization, we are focused on transforming systems to create healthier communities. By analyzing and illustrating the systematic reproduction of inequities, we ‘connect the dots’ and make progress actionable.”
Rachel A. Davis plays a key role in shaping Prevention Institute’s approach and guiding innovative initiatives aimed at promoting health equity, racial justice, and community resilience across health, safety, and wellbeing. As Executive Director, she has led the organization in prioritizing health equity and racial justice across all facets of the work, including developing a racial justice roadmap that guides internal and external work.
During her tenure, the organization has deepened its commitment to working with communities of practice, particularly partnering with communities most impacted by inequities, and expanded its focus on public health policy to advance public health practice centered in equity. Her work at Prevention Institute has influenced state and federal policies and programs on violence prevention, mental health, health equity, and public health generally.
Rachel was motivated to co-found Prevention Institute after working as a social worker with young people in Philadelphia, San Rafael, and San Francisco, where she witnessed a systemic failure to prevent children and young people from being harmed and to help them, their families, and communities first avert and secondly recover from trauma.
“Prevention Institute’s approach, methodology, and frameworks recognize the structural drivers of violence and the unequal distribution of power, money, and resources that impact people’s access to opportunities that improve health outcomes.”
At Prevention Institute, she developed and has overseen UNITY (Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth through Violence Prevention), a CDC-seeded national initiative advancing a public health approach to violence. UNITY has helped city and community leaders advance effective prevention approaches to violence. Rachel is the author of The UNITY Policy Platform: What Cities Need to Prevent Violence Before It Occurs and The UNITY RoadMap: A Tool for Effective and Sustainable Efforts to Prevent Violence Before It Occurs. She developed guidance for The California Endowment’s grantees on local violence prevention and co-authored the foundation’s community safety framework published in 2015, Community Safety: A Building Block for Healthy Communities. Rachel also served as senior advisor and deputy project director for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Youth Violence Prevention Coordinated Training and Technical Assistance program.
Originally for the US Office of Minority Health, Rachel developed the Tool for Health and Resilience in Vulnerable Environments (THRIVE), a community-oriented framework and tool to advance prevention and health equity. THRIVE is now an overarching framework for Prevention Institute, guiding community transformation to improve health, safety, and wellbeing. She also played a key role in developing health equity measures to inform the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Metrics and developed their foundational health equity materials.
In 2014, Rachel conducted a groundbreaking landscape analysis of men’s mental health and wellbeing in the US. The report, Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys in the US, demonstrated that resilience is a critical protective factor for mental wellbeing and underlined the need for community-level prevention strategies to maximize impact. This led to the establishment of a national initiative, Making Connections, to develop and implement practical community-level prevention plans to improve mental wellbeing, prioritizing the needs of military/veteran communities and families, and boys and men of color and their families.
Rachel has an extensive publication record, including in peer-reviewed journals, and is the author and co-author of pioneering frameworks and policy approaches developed and disseminated by Prevention Institute over the past two decades. Recent publications include “From Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adverse Community Experiences: Addressing and Preventing Community Trauma” (in Violence and Trauma in the Lives of Children, edited by Joy Osofsky & Betsy McAlister Groves, Praeger Press); and Countering the Production of Health Inequities: An Emerging Systems Framework to Achieve an Equitable Culture of Health.
She serves on a number of global and national advisory bodies and steering committees, including the Global Violence Prevention Alliance of the World Health Organization; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Violence Prevention Action Council and the Division of Violence Prevention’s Policy Network; the National Advisory Committee of the HOPE Measures Project to develop a National Health Equity Index; the steering committee for the Essentials for Childhood Initiative of the California Department of Public Health; and the Population Health Management Workgroup of the California Department of Health Care Services’ Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal initiative.
Rachel holds a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 2019 she won the APHA Award for Excellence. This award is given each year to a living individual in recognition of exceptionally meritorious contributions to improve community health. Rachel received the award for her “forward thinking vision, outstanding leadership, and commitment to creating thriving, equitable communities.” She was also recognized for having co-developed tools and frameworks that contributed to a shift in how violence is approached locally and nationally.