Nina Ghatan is a Manager at Community Health Improvement Partners, where she uses a collective impact model to provide backbone support to the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative. In this role she works collaboratively with over 200 partners across seven sectors to improve healthy eating and active living environments countywide by advancing policy, systems, and environmental change. Nina has a Master in Social Work with a concentration in Social and Economic Development from Washington University in St. Louis.
Are you originally from San Diego? If not, how did you come to live and work here?
I’m actually from Belleville, Illinois, which is right across the river from St. Louis, Missouri. Just over five years ago, my partner and I decided we needed a change of scenery. We had narrowed it down to California and Colorado. After driving down the west coast and visiting San Diego we knew we found our new home! On Cinco de Mayo, 2013 we loaded our three dogs in our Toyota Tundra and drove halfway across the country. It was quite the adventure!
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
For my undergrad I received a Bachelor of Social Work from Western Illinois University. I was interested in macro-level social work, but had no idea where to start. I found a temporary job in St. Louis teaching at-risk mothers prenatal and postnatal education. It was such a fun and rewarding job!
Later on I became the family health manager at the Early Head Start/ Head Start Center. My job was to enroll families into the program and provide case management. It was during this time I began to realize the hardships, challenges, and hoops that our families had to jump through. Since I formed relationships with all of the parents at the center I knew their reliance on social services was not because of a lack of effort on their part, it was due to problems with the system (lack of affordable housing, insufficient wages, etc.). This realization led me to grad school to pursue a Master of Social Work with a concentration in social and economic development from Washington University in St. Louis.
How did you come to be involved in childhood obesity prevention?
After grad school I worked for a nonprofit housing organization completing intake for our home repair program and providing case management to low-income homeowners, predominately which were seniors and individuals with disabilities. Part of my job was to conduct a health assessment pre and post home repairs to see if we were able to improve the health of individuals living in the home. During this time I realized two things, one- it’s difficult to make healthy choices if the environment does not support it and two- it is really difficult to change behaviors once habits are formed. When we moved to San Diego and I heard about the COI, it was my dream job because I’m passionate about disease prevention and understand that it takes multiple sectors working together to really make an impact.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Our partners! I love that we are able to bring so many wonderful people together each month to work on innovative projects.
What is your favorite current domain project?
Is this a trick question? We have so many great projects in the works. Ok, well if I had to pick one, right now it’s the COI Mini-Grant program, which is a project of our Community Domain. I really enjoy reading through the applications knowing we have funding to help make tangible improvements in the community.
What is your proudest personal accomplishment?
Working on our small, Spanish-style house, which has been our fixer upper/ labor of love for the past four years. We’ve done most of the work ourselves, so it’s really rewarding to see the progress we’ve made over the years. Our current project is converting the garage to an office space.