In 2016, the Colorado Health Foundation created an award program in honor of life and legacy of the late Dr. Virgilio Licona. A nationally recognized advocate for social justice and the health of those most in need, Dr. Licona contributed to the health of Coloradans as a physician and expert in rural health care delivery and migrant health. His role as a leader in communities brought a critical voice to some of the most important conversations and decisions related to how we can bring health in reach for all Coloradans.
The Dr. Virgilio Licona Community Health Leadership Award program recognizes impassioned Coloradans who are finding innovative and effective strategies to overcoming community health barriers across the state.
Last year, the Colorado Health Foundation honored Sundari Kraft with the 2017 Dr. Virgilio Licona Health Leadership Award during our annual Colorado Health Symposium. A grassroots organizer and activist, Sundari works to address health barriers across Colorado communities by mobilizing and activating fellow Coloradans to engage in informed conversations with policymakers to drive important policy decisions that matter most to their health.
As the founder of Sustainable Food Denver and the co-chair of the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council, Kraft successfully led a grassroots movement to pass local policies that made healthy food more accessible and affordable. Key achievements were the food-producing policy that allows Denver residents to keep up to eight ducks or chickens and up to two dwarf goats, and providing support to the Denver residential sales ordinance that allows small-scale residential preparation and sales of food products without food licensing. These two landmark policies are helping Colorado families to live healthier lives by increasing options for fresh and healthy foods.
Kraft also founded one of Denver’s first multi-plot urban farms, and received the Mayor’s Design Award for engaging community members and encouraging families to convert unused yard space into productive gardens. She continues to engage with local Colorado farmers to support the passage of science-based agriculture policy, important to local farming communities across the state. Such local farming policies support local food movements in communities, continue Colorado’s agriculture heritage, and provide access to healthy food at affordable prices for all families.
In addition to advocating and advancing the local food movement, she has played a critical role in efforts around childhood vaccination in the state. To date, Kraft has worked to pass important legislation to create transparency around school and child care immunization rates. Kraft was instrumental in the passage of House Bill (HB) 14-1288 to address Colorado's high rate of personal belief exemptions for school-required vaccines. She made key recommendations to strengthen Colorado's vaccine policy in order to empower caregivers to make informed decisions about vaccinations and where to enroll their children for care and learning using immunization data.
Her work on vaccine issues is focused on amplifying the voices of a diversity of parents across the state and from a variety of backgrounds, as well as highlighting the needs of families who especially rely on community-wide immunizations due to specific medical issues. Inspired by the public policy process, she has dedicated herself full time to policy work and grassroots engagement, and has recently launched Colorado Parents for Vaccinated Communities, an ongoing effort to empower caregivers to speak up for pro-science public health policies.
In addition to the award, the Foundation made a $20,000 donation to a Colorado-based nonprofit of Kraft’s choice, the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, a 501c(3) organization dedicated to keeping Colorado kids healthy by building awareness for vaccines, educating health care providers and advocating for policies that protect children with the goal of increasing childhood vaccination rates.