Kiana McKenna joins Group Health Foundation as program associate with the learning and community engagement team. She is supporting the Foundation’s efforts to build relationships with communities across Washington in order to inform our learning and work to advance health equity.
As a board member of YWCA Spokane, an advisory committee member of Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) Spokane, and also a community organizer with Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in eastern Washington, Kiana knows that authentic relationships are central to the health of any community. She’s keenly aware of how communities closest to an issue are closest to the solutions, or as she prefers to say, “Communities have the power to heal themselves.” She’s eager to bring firsthand knowledge to the Foundation, while also learning from and helping shape an organization that prioritizes curiosity, ongoing study, and critical conversations.
“Group Health Foundation is carrying out non-traditional philanthropy, centering community and respecting the knowledge within community. The intention and time taken to really learn, as well as the commitment to ongoing learning is game-changing.” Kiana adds, “It’s very different from how philanthropy has operated.”
For Kiana, the Foundation’s work for health equity is a personal passion as well as a professional one. As the middle child in a multicultural family, she’s always intuitively understood how where you live and where you come from shape your well-being. The last few years she’s spent at Empire Health Foundation have given her the language to articulate what she’s already known and equipped her for her new role.
“I can’t stand to see the barriers that are in the way of people’s thriving,” says Kiana. “A lot of the disparities I see in my work I also see within my own family experience. It drives me. I want better for my family. I want better for my communities.”
Kiana is excited to be part of a new organization that is developing with intention and purpose. Core to health equity is “meeting people where they’re at,” so Kiana knows the Foundation’s commitment to this will lead to authentic relationship-building.
“We’re able to take what we learn from communities back to the organization, which will inform our work,” said Kiana. “But the other piece is making sure we, as team, maintain this learning of different communities and certain topics that aren’t part of everyday conversations—topics that are sometimes hard to broach, but really important for understanding who we’re serving. It will allow us to create deeper connection and enhance the work, so we can better serve communities across the state.”
Kiana graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. Before joining Group Health Foundation, she worked in communications and marketing. Kiana enjoys spending her free time in community and with her family, including her two-year-old rescue pup.