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California and #Health4All in Focus at Health Action 2016

California and #Health4All in Focus at Health Action 2016

Families USA

It was really exciting to see California front and center this year at Families USA’s 2016 Health Action Conference. Sometimes when we are entrenched in the work, we often forget to reflect on our successes and the tremendous grit, collaboration, and leadership that go into it all. We were humbled as Dr. Bob Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, and Marielena Hicapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, reminded us just how far California has come but also how much more work there still is to do. Later, we were absolutely thrilled to see our colleague and friend, Reshma Shamasunder, former Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, honored as the Health Equity Advocate of the Year.

At last Thursday’s keynote plenary, two Californians highlighted the movement to expand health care for all, regardless of immigration status. Dr. Bob Ross took us back to 1994 when Governor Pete Wilson exploited California’s worst prejudiced fears about immigrants to advance his political ambitions. This movement in history is not isolated but underscored the key challenges that come with the fight for social justice. Creating change begins with changing the narrative, empowering the voices of communities, and ultimately building the relationships and alliances necessary to change policies. The #Health4All campaign emerged from this very blueprint. While Dr. Ross described the challenges and wins from #Health4All and SB 4, Marielena Hincapie reminded us that the fight for healthcare is a fight for dignity and inclusiveness for all. With over 27 million remaining uninsured and a quarter undocumented, she took the opportunity to urge states across the country to join the campaign to expand access to health care for all immigrants. It was moving to see and hear how engaged the rest of conference attendees were. And while there is still so much work to be done, for a moment, we were reminded of how far we had come and the strong coalitions we have built together to get here.

Later at Friday’s luncheon, the California caucus came out in full force to support our friend and colleague, Reshma Shamasunder. As the head of CIPC for over 12 years, Reshma has been an invaluable champion for the immigrant rights movement and a cornerstone of the #Health4All campaign. We were so thrilled and pleased to see her recognized for her outstanding work. Here again, we were reminded of the vision and leadership our movement for health equity needs.

In so many ways, California is leading the way in health reform. But, as we close out another year at Health Action 2016, it’s becoming clear that now more than ever, we need to focus on elevating the voices of communities of color to advance health equity and continue the fight for Health4All.

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