Desiree Backman, Dr.PH, M.S., R.D.
Director, Prevention Policy & Practice Group
(916) 731-1394

Desiree Backman, Dr.PH, M.S., R.D. is a Program Director with the University of California, Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research. She also serves on the Volunteer Clinical Faculty, Department of Public Health Sciences. In these roles, Dr. Backman works to improve the health of populations large and small through strategic population health management; evidence-informed program and policy design and implementation; and comprehensive evaluation. She spent over six years working with senior leadership and staff at the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to advance population health, prevention, and quality improvement. Dr. Backman served a key role in the development of the Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care, which has served as a blueprint for DHCS to improve health and well-being for Medi-Cal members.

Prior to her current appointment, Dr. Backman worked with the Public Health Institute and the California Department of Public Health to direct statewide programs designed to improve the diet and physical activity habits of low-income Californians.  She worked with a team of experts to develop and sustain five nationally recognized programs and has published peer-reviewed articles on the topics of cancer prevention, health promotion and disease prevention, quality improvement, and population health intervention approaches and effects.  

In addition to her work in population health, Dr. Backman has a passion for the environment.  She was the Deputy Director of the Sacramento Tree Foundation, where she directed all programs and services to establish an optimal urban forest for the greater Sacramento region. She is currently President of the Board of Directors of California ReLeaf, a statewide advocacy and action organization to preserve, protect, and grow healthy community forests.

Dr. Backman has helped secure grants and contracts worth over $255 million and has served on a variety of expert panels and work groups at Loma Linda University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute.  In addition, she received multiple public health academic and practice awards including the Alumnus of the Year Award and President’s Award from Loma Linda University, Best GEM Award from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, and the Joint Health, Fitness, and Nutrition Award from the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the National Association for Health and Fitness.  Prior to launching her career, Dr. Backman earned her doctorate in public health from Loma Linda University and she is a registered dietitian.