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Office of Health Equity Releases Comprehensive Plan to Improve Health in Communities of Color

Office of Health Equity Releases Comprehensive Plan to Improve Health in Communities of Color

In 2012, California took a significant step toward addressing the health needs of its diverse communities with the creation of the Office of Health Equity (OHE) within the California Department of Public Health. In the years since, OHE has taken a leading role in bringing attention to the health needs of the state’s communities of color and other underserved populations such as LGBTQ populations, while also looking at health through a gender lens.

One of OHE’s key initial tasks was to develop a report highlighting the specific health challenges faced by communities of color in California and offering a strategic vision for addressing inequities. Late last week, OHE released its much-anticipated report, Portrait of Promise: The California Statewide Plan to Promote Health and Mental Health Equity, and it is full of information about California’s uniquely diverse population and their health needs.

The report goes into great detail about the benefits and challenges posed by California’s diversity and looks at the root causes of inequities across the state. OHE also makes a considerable effort to document the social determinants of health and how income, food security, education, housing, neighborhood planning, and the environment are all inextricably linked to the public’s health. The report also addresses gaps in access to health care among communities of color and low-income populations and the importance of cultural and linguistic competence in health care services.

Mental health is also a key focus of the document, and there is discussion on raising awareness, reducing stigma, and improving access to mental health services. (OHE has also been a significant partner in CPEHN’s work on the California Reducing Disparities Project’s Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities, which will be released in the coming months.)

The report closes with OHE’s strategy to eliminate health and mental health inequities. As you can see from the diagram to the right, the strategy involves collaboration between the state and the community to build capacity for sustainable system change:

“Health and mental health inequities have surfaced through a culmination of unjust policies and practices over multiple generations. As such, there is no one-to-one relationship in eliminating the inequities; it is a many-to-many relationship. The individuals who have been involved in developing this Plan have identified many intersecting, complementary interventions to turn the tide on the many inequities that are well documented in the accompanying report.

These interventions have as their basis; assessment, communication, and infrastructure development for California overall, as well as within the health field, among potential health partners, and within local communities.”

You can read more about OHE’s strategy to eliminate health inequities by downloading the report.

OHE developed the report with input from a diverse advisory committee that included health advocates working in a number of sectors and different communities across the state (including CPEHN’s former Executive Director, Ellen Wu). OHE also sought out stakeholder input at its Advisory Committee meetings, through one-on-one meetings, and by attending meetings and conferences hosted by organizations like CPEHN. As health advocates in California, we are fortunate to have a state entity focused on developing community-focused efforts to advance health equity. OHE is a powerful ally in the fight to eliminate health disparities in California, and this report details their commitment to that goal.

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