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Blog Posts from July 2015

Blog Posts from July 2015

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, an act that created both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. With one stroke of his pen, President Johnson put in place an unprecedented commitment to health that has impacted the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. 

The Medicaid program – Medi-Cal here in California – began as a federal-state partnership to cover medical expenses for families receiving public assistance. After it was separated from welfare in the 1990s, Medicaid has continued to grow and now covers more than 80 million people, including roughly one-third of American children. In California, following the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s expansions, Medi-Cal now covers over 12 million low-income individuals, including nearly half of all children in the state. The program serves to address key inequities in the health care system, in particular the coverage gaps faced by communities of color. While we’re still waiting on a reliable breakdown of Medi-Cal enrollees by race and ethnicity after the expansion, communities of color likely represent a large majority of recipients. (In 2013, communities of color made up over 80% of the Medi-Cal population and nearly half spoke a language other than English.)

In order for CPEHN and other health advocates to promote policies that effectively reduce disparities, we need as much information about our communities’ needs as we can get. Unfortunately, we often lack the data to really illustrate disparities within racial and ethnic groups, which is why collection of disaggregated data in the health care system is one of CPEHN’s policy priorities.

Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities, especially, are extremely diverse and each population has different experiences and needs. To get an idea of how some of these API communities have fared since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, led by former CPEHN Board member and former President/CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum Ho Luong Tran, M.D., M.P.H., has issued a detailed report, The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Pakistani, & Vietnamese Americans. This report looks at both access to care and some key social determinants of health (including income and education) at the national level to get a better understanding of disparities within these ethnic subgroups. Since California has the largest population of most of these API subgroups, and roughly one-third of the nation’s total API population, the report also includes statewide data to help us promote health equity in our state.

The Network of Ethnic Physician Organizations (NEPO) is happy to announce the 2015 Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Summit: Helping Health Providers Address Social Determinants of Health. This event, from September 18-20 in Riverside, is a unique and exciting educational event for physicians, public health professionals, and community leaders. The 2015 BHC Summit will provide you with opportunities to learn about emerging health policy issues, best practices for reducing health disparities, and cultural competency in clinical care.

The Summit will inspire physicians and healthcare providers to participate in community health efforts and to be challenged to improve health care and the quality of life in their communities. You will have the opportunity to hear from nationally acclaimed thought leaders and network with colleagues. Our keynote speakers include California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and George Halvorson, the chair of the First 5 Commission of California. We are also pleased to offer CME credits. 

The BHC Summit will also be hosting a poster presentation session for current medical students. We would like to extend to any medical student an opportunity to participate in a poster presentation displaying their health care research. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to display their work and network with other health care providers. For additional information, including guidelines and application, click here.

Over 100 advocates from across the state gathered at the Sierra Health Foundation in Sacramento earlier today for CPEHN’s sixth Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California convening. The event, co-hosted by OnTrack Program Resources, highlighted a number of topics that impact health in California’s communities of color, including health care quality, behavioral health integration, and access to health care for the remaining uninsured, particularly undocumented immigrants.

After the popularity of our events in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside, we were invited by OnTrack to continue the discussion in the state capital. The event began with a presentation by CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia that touched on each of the event’s topics.

She focused on how communities of color, who represent a majority of the state’s population, have the most to gain from successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She also pointed to the increased enrollment of Latinos and African Americans during Covered California’s second open enrollment period as a sign that the law’s programs are starting to have their intended impact.

This post originally appeared on the Families USA blog.

With last month’s Supreme Court ruling affirming that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is here to stay, advocates and decisionmakers can turn to building on the law’s success, such as closing the Medicaid gap, improving the value of care, and eliminating the “family glitch.” Another top priority in this next phase of health reform is making good on the promise of health care for all, regardless of immigration status. This includes the approximately 11.2 million undocumented immigrants who live and work in our country.

Last month, California, the state with the most undocumented immigrants, took a momentous leap in that direction.  

The effort to expand access to affordable health coverage for California’s immigrant population is in full gear this week as Senator Ricardo Lara has been traveling the state to promote SB 4, which takes a strong step toward covering all Californians by expanding access to Medi-Cal to all children regardless of immigration status. The bill also allows undocumented immigrants to purchase coverage through Covered California, which they are currently prohibited from doing.

Senator Lara’s Health for All Statewide Community Tour kicked off in Oakland last night along with Assemblymember Rob Bonta at Asian Health Services. Senator Lara will be traveling throughout the summer legislative break to rally support for his proposal and to build awareness about the expanded coverage options for undocumented children, which will begin in April 2016. SB 4 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations committee when the legislature reconvenes in August.

Community and organizational support at last night’s press conference and community meeting demonstrated the imperative of covering the state’s immigrant population.

Assemblymember Bonta discussed his family’s recent immigration history as one of the main reasons why he’s working on SB 4.

Following our belief that health is about way more than just what happens in a doctor’s office, at CPEHN we have been working a lot in recent years to address the social and environmental determinants that impact our health. One of the main factors we have focused on is transportation. From pedestrian injuries to unequal access to public transit, transportation inequities often coincide with health disparities, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color. One of our successes has been the passage of our sponsored bill AB 441 in 2012, which included health and equity criteria in the state’s transportation planning guidance.

There are also a number of ongoing policy efforts to improve transportation and promote physical activity. Earlier today, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership hosted a webinar, Active Transportation and Equity: Key Challenges and Opportunities from the Field, to discuss how transportation policies that promote physical activity can also achieve equity. The webinar highlighted the organization’s recently released report, At the Intersection of Active Transportation and Equity: Joining Forces to Make Communities Healthier and Fairer, which looks at how active transportation advocacy can coincide with efforts to increase health and opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color.

This post originally appeared on TransForm's blog, TransForum.

Across the state, a dozen different agencies are doling out millions of cap-and-trade dollars to hundreds of communities. But who’s counting?

We are.

Last week, we launched ClimateBenefitsCA.org, a new website that lets you see what projects California’s cap-and-trade program is funding, and how these investments are making our state’s communities more sustainable, healthy, and fair.

Climate Benefits for California is a searchable online map that shows how California’s climate program is improving people’s lives. You can use the map to see what projects are funded; filter them by geography, program, or year; and add up the benefits.

With the help of the data wizards at GreenInfo Network and a team of collaborators, we’ve collected the grant information released by multiple state agencies and transformed it into a one-stop shop. Here you can find, view, and assess the impacts of investments funded through the California Climate Investments Program (CCIP, formerly the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund or GGRF).

The map also tells the stories of the people and communities who are turning these investments into solutions to our state’s most pressing environmental, social, and economic issues.

Anyone working in social justice knows that poverty is at the root of many societal inequities, and health is no exception. There are roughly 6 million people living in poverty in California, with communities of color representing over three-quarters (75.5%) of this population. These numbers, from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, paint a startling picture of inequality in our state, but a new report from the United Ways of California, Struggling to Get By: The Real Cost Measure in California 2015, shows that it actually is much worse.

The Census numbers rely on the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is currently $11,770 per year for an individual and $24,250 per year for a family of four. What Struggling to Get By reveals, however, is that those numbers are actually too low. The report creates a new metric, the Real Cost Measure, to analyze what a family’s true expenses are and what the necessary annual income is to meet them. While the Real Cost Measure varies by location based on cost-of-living differences, the average income needed to meet basic needs costs for a family of two adults, one infant, and one school-aged child who rent housing is $57,202 per year, or nearly two and a half times FPL. San Francisco’s Real Cost Measure, the highest in the state, is $73,894 per year, or more than three times FPL. The lowest Real Cost Measure in the state, $43,229 in Tulare County, is still nearly twice FPL.

At CPEHN, we’re always working to promote health equity on a number of fronts. Earlier this year, we joined with the DentaQuest Foundation in a nationwide effort to improve oral health equity for California’s low-income communities and communities of color. Part of the foundation’s Oral Health 2020 initiative, we are partnering with several other grantees in the state, including Latino Coalition for a Health California (LCHC), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA, SCOPE LA, Central Valley Health Policy Institute, and Vision y Compromiso, to build a grassroots movement for oral health.

Earlier today, DentaQuest Foundation hosted a Twitter storm with the Children’s Dental Health Project and Northeastern University’s Innovations in Oral Health to promote health equity and raise awareness of oral health disparities across the country. The discussion, using the hashtag #iamhealthequity, resulted in a lot of great information and resources for improving oral health in underserved communities. CPEHN’s founding ethnic partner and partner in the DentaQuest project, LCHC, also participated in the Twitter action today. Here are some highlights, but be sure to check out the full discussion on Twitter here:

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