March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by recognizing the women who are making history today by working to impact policy change in various areas where Arnold Ventures works.
Today, we’re highlighting Leena Sharma, deputy director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation at Community Catalyst, a leading nonprofit national health advocacy organization dedicated to advancing a movement for health equity and justice.
Who She Is
Sharma has always been interested in policy issues that impact people’s everyday lives and how policy change can be a lever for change in our communities. While working at the Greater New Jersey Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, she completed her master’s degree in public policy in the evenings, and during the day she mobilized people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers to have a voice in health care policy decisions that impact their care. In 2011, she joined Community Catalyst, which has been “exactly the type of organization I was looking for in pushing for policies that can create systemic, transformational change in our society and in particular, for populations that are often overlooked, underserved or marginalized by our health care system,” she said.
What She’s Currently Working On
Sharma works to improve policies that impact people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and must navigate two programs with different rules that too often result in fragmented and uncoordinated care, with a special focus on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. In particular, she is directing two projects in partnership with Arnold Ventures. One aims to change policies to improve access to home- and community-based services (HCBS) by dually eligible individuals, with an emphasis on better understanding the racial and ethnic disparities in access and utilization of HCBS, so that more older adults and people with disabilities can stay in their homes rather than being moved to institutionalized settings. The other project is shining a light on the confusing, complicated enrollment process for dually eligible individuals and spearheading change so it becomes a simpler, seamless gateway to integrated care.
What Inspires Her
“It’s my deep belief that transformational, systemic change is possible,” Sharma said. “And that our voices matter when it comes to policy change. I think stories matter, narrative matters, and that makes change. And I have two young daughters and I want them to grow up as empowered women of color who understand the value of their voice, and really use it to make change.”
It’s my deep belief that transformational, systemic change is possible.Leena Sharma deputy director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation at Community Catalyst