Founder/Executive Director of the Health Education Council
The Health Education Council (HEC) is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting health and preventing chronic disease in underserved communities. As the founder and Executive Director, Debra Oto-Kent has been working directly with people in underserved communities to give them to the tools they needed to enact change, increase economic prosperity and improve health outcomes.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Sacramento native and after moving to Southern California for college and graduate school returned to live in the neighborhood I grew up. While Sacramento has changed a lot over the years, it has maintained an amazing connected community feel.
How are you making a difference in your community? What issues are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about working to improve community health and neighborhood wellness. I started the non-profit organization, the Health Education Council over 28 years ago to work to reduce health disparities that exist in communities. I wanted to begin to answer the question about why some residents have higher rates of chronic disease like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other conditions and then implement initiatives to reduce those conditions that contribute to unhealthy living. I really love bringing diverse partners together to work on solving problems leveraging our many assets in our community. Empowering individuals, families and communities to live their best healthiest lives is something we can all get excited about!
What inspires your community efforts? Why is the work important to you?
I am inspired by the opportunities all around us to better link and connect great work going on. Sometimes we stay in our silos and if we connect more we can have a greater impact.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud and blessed by my amazing family. And I am proud of the work that the Health Education Council especially our impressive staff has achieved over the past decades.
What have you struggled most with in your life?
As an over 20 year cancer survivor, I understand the challenges of navigating complex systems of care and living with chronic disease conditions. This has informed by life and work.
If there is one problem in our community that you wish you could fix, what would it be?
Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the country and I hope we can fully appreciate the richness that this brings to our city.
How do you decompress?
I decompress by being with my family and friends, reading, gardening and 'unplugging'.