San Mateo County has named Shireen Malekafzali, a long-time health advocate, as its first chief equity officer.

Malekafzali will begin her new role later this month. She currently serves as the health equity officer and senior manager for health policy, planning and equity for San Mateo County Health.

The new position is part of the county’s efforts to provide services through an equity lens. Malekafzali worked with County Health for seven years and led the health equity strategy in response to COVID-19, including an approach for equitable vaccine distribution and a community-led COVID-testing model.

Shireen Malekafzali. (Photo courtesy of San Mateo County)

“To truly be a government for the people and of the people, we must continually strive to understand how we can do better by the people, all people,” Malekafzali said in a statement. “Equity can’t be couched in the way we administer one program or resource but in all the ways we hold ourselves accountable and define successful governance.”

Malekafzali has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a master’s degree in public health. Her 20-year career has included policy, teaching, research and coalition building. She previously represented San Mateo County as a policy advisor with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and worked with national research institute PolicyLink.

She will move from County Health to the County Manager’s Office. County Manager Mike Callagy said that equity must be woven into every aspect of how the county provides for its residents, especially the most vulnerable. He said this new position will bring an equity lens to issues of housing, jobs, transportation and food access.

“The COVID-19 pandemic shined a brighter light on our structural biases and disparities and showed us that we must do better. With Shireen’s experience and thoughtful approach to complex issues with often many sides, she is the ideal person to help lead the county in this critically important endeavor,” Callagy said.

As Malekafzali moves into her new role, Deputy Health Officer Curtis Chan will take on additional responsibilities as public health equity officer.