This week, CPEHN began its fall convening series and over 100 advocates attended events in Fresno and Oakland to discuss the importance of health and equity in neighborhood planning. The convening series, A Blueprint for Health: Planning Communities that Promote Equity, features a discussion of the newly released draft statewide general plan guidelines from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and how this document can be used to develop healthier, more equitable communities across the state.
Today in Oakland, the convening began with a presentation from Heather Wooten from ChangeLab Solutions about the importance of the state’s general plan guidelines and why community involvement is key.
Both Tuesday’s event in Fresno and today’s in Oakland featured a presentation by Elizabeth Baca and Sahar Shirazi from OPR about what is in the new draft guidelines. In particular, they highlighted three chapters dealing with health, equity, and public engagement. You can read those chapters here:
How would you invest in the health of your community?
Growing up, I learned the importance of listening to my family, friends, and neighbors. When I was 5 years old, I remember sitting at the end of our driveway with my grandpa, listening as he talked to everyone who walked by. Nearly half a century later, he knew something about everyone in our neighborhood. From the wisdom of those around me, I felt the pulse of my community.
Sociologist David Brain said, “Community is something we practice together. It’s not just a container.” Like science, medicine, and technology, becoming an expert on the needs of your community takes dedication and years of study. There are no better experts on the needs of a community than those, like my grandpa, who “practice” community every day.
As part of our weeklong recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, today we will talk about how the environment in which we live impacts our mental health. In particular, we’ll focus on the most pressing environmental crisis confronting California – the historic drought we’ve experienced over the past few years.
A couple weeks ago, The Fresno Bee published a terrific feature on how the drought is impacting mental health in East Porterville, an unincorporated community in Tulare County. The article does a great job of highlighting some of the health repercussions of the drought in a community of roughly 7,500 residents, three-quarters of whom are Latino. The main thrust of the piece, however, is about the mental health impact of the drought on this community.
“In a town whose problems already include air pollution, water contamination and poverty, the drought has spurred a growing health crisis, worsening respiratory conditions and burdening those with other illnesses.
It gets worse.
… In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies published a guide about protecting public health during a drought. The guide refers to studies in Australia and India that showed elevated levels of suicide among farmworkers living in rural areas affected by severe and extended droughts.
Among those most at risk for drought-related health effects, it says, are “people living in rural or remote areas who depend on water from private wells and small or poorly maintained municipal systems, the quality of which is more susceptible to environmental changes.”
The American Lung Association State of the Air 2015 report, released last week, showed that while progress has been made, California continues to have some of the worst air pollution in the country. In fact, 28 million Californians live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels can make the air unhealthy to breathe. (Click on the map to enlarge.)
Covering air pollution data from 2011-2013, State of the Air 2015 shows that California cities still dominate lists for the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone (smog) as well as short-term and annual particle pollution (soot). Several cities had both higher year round averages and unhealthy days on average of particle pollution driven largely by drought weather conditions.
Specifically, of the top ten cities in the nation with the worst air pollution, California metropolitan areas rank as follows:
Our spring convening series, Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California, continued today in Fresno, as health advocates gathered to discuss the most pressing health needs for communities of color in the Central Valley. Like our Oakland convening on Tuesday, this event focused on three key areas: behavioral health integration, considering equity when improving the quality of care, and Health for All efforts to expand access to coverage for everyone regardless of immigration status.
Jennifer Torres from Clinica Sierra Vista started things off by discussing ongoing efforts to integrate behavioral health services with primary care services at community health clinics in Kern and Fresno Counties. She pointed to some initial challenges with assimilating behavioral health into the culture of community health clinics, but also noted that progress has been made.
Over 3.5 million Californians have enrolled in new coverage options since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), yet persistent health disparities remain among communities of color, immigrants, and Limited English Proficient populations. Join CPEHN and our partners for Focus on Equity: Communities of Color in a Post-ACA California, as we highlight opportunities to advance equity in 2015 and beyond. Topics will include:
Health for All: There will be updates on the progress of SB 4 (Lara), the Health for All Act, and we will feature why it’s necessary to ensure that all Californians can access health coverage, regardless of immigration status. There will also be information on how you can take action and have your voice be heard in support of SB 4 and other efforts to improve access to health coverage for immigrants across the state.
Integration of behavioral health in primary care: We will hear about why treating behavioral health and physical health in an integrated manner will help improve care in both fields.
The importance of equity in measuring the quality of health care: While the health care system approach to quality is focused on the “triple aim” of population health, patient experience, and costs, we will show why it’s necessary to include a fourth aim: equity.
Our convenings are interactive events that allow participants to participate in important health policy discussions. We’ll feature important policy proposals and how our communities can mobilize in support of them. We value the opportunity to travel throughout the state and hear different perspectives on all the critical health issues impacting California’s communities of color. It’d be great if you can join us and share your thoughts!
Today in Fresno, we had a good turnout at the first CPEHN town hall meeting to discuss the draft Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities. Roughly three dozen mental health advocates gathered at Fresno’s Downtown Business Hub to provide public comment on a draft plan aimed at reducing disparities in mental health in California’s communities of color and LGBTQ population.
Representatives from mental health professionals serving a wide array of populations at the state and local level gathered to provide their expertise to the ongoing efforts of the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP).
The meeting generated discussion on a variety of topics. One primary focus was data collection to identify disparities within subgroups of the five targeted populations in the plan (African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, LGBTQ, and Native American). For example, the Central Valley’s sizeable Hmong population has different needs than other Asian and Pacific Islander populations in other regions in the state.
Perhaps the hottest topic at the meeting was the importance of cultural competency within the mental health workforce. There were many suggestions on how to ensure that the workforce best understands the unique needs of California’s diverse populations, including mandatory trainings, improving curricula at the college level, and developing and disseminating resources.
The attendees were also enthusiastic about the CRDP’s potential to determine the most effective community-based mental health practices.