Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Prevention Institute helps people access jobs, education

LEIMERT PARK — One of the biggest successes that the Prevention Institute — a nonprofit that aids community access to education, health care and employment — saw this past year was purchasing a building in Leimert Park.

Buying the property was an important move for the organization, as it wanted to not only maintain proximity with the African-American community, but wanted also to invest in an area so vital to the future and history of Los Angeles.

“Purchasing the building this year was important to us so we could really represent safer, healthier and a more equitable community,” said Manal Aboelata, the organization’s managing director.

What started as a kitchen table idea in 1997 in Berkeley, that would focus on preventing illness and injury in people eventually expanded into other cities across the United States, one of which was Los Angeles in 1999.

And since then, the core of the nonprofit’s work has been to make a difference in people’s lives.

“We work on a range of topics,” Aboelata said. “From health system transformation, which is about getting the health care system to invest more on illness prevention, to improving health equity and land use.”

In addition, the organization works to ensure that communities have access to affordable and nutritious food, addresses the socioeconomic inequities that impede the healthy growth of communities, works to change the factors that contribute to violence in public and domestic spaces, and much more.

“We work on violence prevention, injury and trauma prevention,” Aboelata said. “It’s often about bringing people together and preventing violence from happening. It’s not just about bringing in law enforcement.”

Recognizing that individual well-being is essential to healthy communities, the Prevention Institute, along with other coalitions, is part of an initiative called Making Connections for Mental Health and Well-being Among Men and Boys.

Its focus is to develop and implement plans to better the mental health of males with high needs, like men and boys of color, veterans and those serving in the military.

But all the work the Prevention Institute does would not be possible without the partnerships it has with other organizations, who together often act as the voices for the communities they serve.

“We connect the dots between organizations and issues so that we’re thinking collaboratively to advance a shared vision that many organizations have to uplift and elevate communities and their visions,” Aboelata said. “We help create a common language across organizations to share and support one another in our work. Often there is a need for broad voices to create big policies to make differences in large communities like South L.A.”

Collectively, nonprofits have talked to residents of South L.A. to figure out what the critical issues and opportunities are in their communities so that the organizations can help change and meet them, Aboelata said.

They identified policies, organizations and social practices to better those neighborhoods. After the Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches Measure (Measure A) passed last year, for example, and people were deciding how the money would be spent, the institution stepped in. They found that South L.A. was a red zone of parks, meaning that there were very few open spaces where community members could go.

So the the Prevention Institute advocated with other organizations to get 13 percent of the tax increase set aside for high-need areas like South L.A.

“Our job now is to change the color of South L.A. to green from red,” in hopes that in years to come, children can grow up with fair access to green and open spaces, Aboelata said. Until then, the Prevention Institute will continue to work on a range of issues to improve the lives of the individuals it looks out for.

INFORMATION BOX

Executive director: Larry Cohen

Years in operation: 1998

Annual, national budget: $5 million

Number of employees: in L.A. 8; 40 nationally

Location: 4315 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles, 90008