Now in its third year, the Women’s Policy Summit, a major policy forum hosted by the California Center for Research on Women and Families to advance the health, wealth, and power of women and girls, featured the leaders of both the California State Senate and Assembly. For the first time, the event also included a Health Policy Fair showcasing over 20 women’s health organizations and their priority issues and policy recommendations for 2015.
It is always interesting to hear what legislative leaders prioritize as key issues for women’s policy. For example, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins underscored her commitment to policies that uplift families out of poverty and advance reproductive health. But what should we anticipate this year? As Speaker Atkins stated, already in the state budget, we have seen $100 million of cap and trade money allocated toward transit-oriented affordable housing. In regards to what still needs to be done, she also highlighted repealing the punitive CalWORKS Maximum Family Grant rule (also known as the family cap rule) and working towards a state Earned Income Tax Credit as key policies to watch. (The California Budget Project has a great analysis of the Earned Income Tax Credit, if you’d like more information.) And, with the state budget now on stronger footing, both Speaker Atkins and Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon continued to press Governor Jerry Brown to restore funding to critical safety net programs after severe cuts during the recession.
Perhaps one of the most engaging parts of the summit was the Office of Health Equity’s presentation on women’s health in California and the Women’s Health Policy Fair that followed. The presentation excellently framed the health equity challenges faced specifically by women of color and talked about social determinants of health in an approachable, easy-to-understand way. We have to continue to educate and advocate for policymakers to take a comprehensive approach to health because health is not just about medical care – though it is a critical part! It starts with where we live, learn, work, pray, and play. Following the discussion with the Women’s Health Policy Fair was a great way to see those ideas in action. The greatest strength of the 2015 Women’s Policy Summit was this tie-in. We hope to see more of this kind of collaboration that really prioritizes taking on the health inequities faced by communities of color.