Martha Ryan RN, MPH ’89 is founder and executive director of Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) in San Francisco. From its founding in 1989, the HPP has grown into a Family Resource Center offering delivery care, housing assistance, parenting support, and financial and technology literacy to new and expecting mothers. The organization aims to provide non-judgmental holistic care that empowers women to break the cycle of poverty.
On public health and the challenges we face
Public health explores wellness through community. This approach has the power to make large-scale change. By looking at the social determinate of health—and health disparity—we gain insights that shape systems to stem problems before they start.
I met fellow honoree, Cheri Pies, when I was at Berkeley, and I am honored to say that she is now the president of the Homeless Prenatal Program’s Board of Directors. Berkeley provided me with a network of like-minded, bright, and compassionate leaders that has lasted throughout my career. I have learned so much from Cheri over the years, and I continue to grow with her in this work.
A change to one U.S. policy that would transform public health
Housing is critical to healthful living. If I were able, I would ensure that everyone had access to safe, affordable housing. Currently, undocumented immigrants and families, ex-cons, and folks who have been previously evicted from housing are ineligible for government supported housing. I’d like to make it easier for these marginalized groups to have access to stability. While housing alone isn’t enough—many of these populations need additional support and resources—it is an essential, foundational aspect of well-being.