This week, Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) had a terrific report on student hydration in California. The story highlighted one of the state’s more distressing inequities – the lack of access to and consumption of clean drinking water.
The report focuses primarily on schools in Los Angeles, but does reference a national study that found that more than half of all children and adolescents in the U.S. experience chronic dehydration. While rates are high across all races and ethnicities, they are particularly high among African Americans and Latinos. This is especially evident in LA’s public schools, where a majority of students are from communities of color.
The article has some good quotes from health advocates, including our friends at California Food Policy Advocates, on the challenges of increasing access to and consumption of clean water.
"When you look at water it’s zero calories but yet you need it to survive and to live a fruitful life," says Hector Gutierrez, a nutrition policy analyst who works on water access for the California Food Policy Advocates. "So we are trying to change the paradigm and make water the beverage of choice."
Experts say school is a natural target for efforts to make water more attractive, since kids spend so much of their time there. But there's a lot of work to do...
“A lot of these schools [in California] are very old and have old infrastructure," says Gutierrez. "The water might be hot, or the drinking fountain might be kind of decrepit."
California’s Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA) released its 2015-16 Health Care Quality Report Cards last week. The new report cards shed light on the quality of care under a variety of health care providers and plans, including California’s 10 largest HMOs, the six biggest PPOs, and more than 200 large medical groups covering 16 million consumers in California. The data is drawn from claims data and patient surveys.
The report cards are timely as consumers gear up for 2016 open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1, 2015, and continues through Jan. 31, 2016. With the release of the report cards, consumers should have an easier time shopping for coverage. Each HMO and PPO is evaluated on their overall medical care and for how it treats certain conditions like asthma and cancer as well as its behavior and mental health care. Further, the report card provides a deeper evaluation on how a health plan treats certain conditions through specific clinical indicators of good care. This helps consumers understand what they should expect from their coverage.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of October 12, 2015. Yet again, there’s so much great work being done it’s hard to capture all of it, but I think we have a bunch of interesting topics this week. Check it out:
Public policy efforts are working to improve access to healthy food!
As Covered California’s third open enrollment period fast approaches, a new report sheds some light on the state’s remaining uninsured and finds that roughly half are eligible for either Medi-Cal or subsidized coverage through Covered California. Earlier this week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released New Estimates of Eligibility for ACA Coverage among the Uninsured, which looks at the over 32 million remaining uninsured across the country after the first two years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansions.
Nationally, the report shows the devastating impact of many states’ refusals to expand Medicaid. Roughly one-tenth of the remaining uninsured in the U.S. – over 3 million individuals – would fall into the coverage gap and could have been covered had their states decided to expand Medicaid as stipulated in the ACA.
But the report also looks at the remaining uninsured at a state-by-state level, and with this analysis we see that over half (53%) of California’s more than 3.8 million uninsured are eligible for either Medi-Cal (37%) or for subsidized coverage in Covered California (16%). These numbers show that while we have cut our state’s uninsured population nearly in half over the past three years, we still have an opportunity to continue this dramatic improvement. With another open enrollment period on the horizon, it is imperative that there are sufficient outreach and enrollment efforts, particularly in low-income areas, communities of color, and Limited English Proficient populations to maximize participation by the eligible population.
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of October 5, 2015. There was so much bill-signing excitement last week that we’re a couple days late for this anxiously anticipated edition of TWEET. Don’t worry, we still have a lot of great stuff in here, including:
Great feature in the New York Times about how soda consumption is decreasing.
While most people drive to work, alternative forms of transportation (walking, biking, etc.) are becoming more popular.
This past week was National Mental Illness Awareness Week, and on October 10, health advocates around the globe observed World Mental Health Day. These events draw attention to the prevalence of behavioral health conditions and seek to combat the stigma that surrounds them. Communities of color in the United States face significant mental health disparities and greater barriers in getting the treatment they need. Fortunately, one way the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is improving the health care system is by requiring most health plans to offer free depression screenings as a preventive health service.
Today, Governor Jerry Brown made it easier for all children to enroll in affordable health coverage, regardless of immigration status, when he signed Senate Bill 4, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara. Under the measure, eligible children currently receiving limited health care services will be automatically enrolled in full-scope Medi-Cal coverage in 2016. This is a victory for all kids, and will serve as a good first step as we continue our work to expand coverage to undocumented immigrant adults.
However, health is about more than just coverage. Earlier this week, the Governor vetoed Assembly Bill 176, authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta. This bill would have required several state agencies to use more detailed ethnic categories when collecting demographic data for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs). This data is essential for identifying inequities within AA and NHPI communities, of which there are more than 50 in California. Existing data sources, including the California Health Interview Survey, show disparate rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and obesity among diverse AA and NHPI communities. Combining all of these unique subgroups into one data category only serves to mask the underlying inequities.
CPEHN remains committed to Health for All and will continue to support policies that require more detailed data collection to help us fully understand the health needs of our communities.
Join us in November to discuss the NEWLY revised draft General Plan Guidelines! These guidelines direct cities and counties to consider key issues such as housing, complete streets, and open space in the planning and development of their communities.
In October, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) is releasing the long-awaited revised general plan guidelines, which will include new sections on how cities and counties can also promote health and equity in future development. These draft guidelines have the potential to impact health in many ways, such as encouraging the availability of healthy foods, promoting active transportation, and identifying housing needs.
Come learn about the potential of the new guidelines at A Blueprint for Health: Planning Communities that Promote Equity! Hear about the draft guidelines from staff at the Office of Research and Planning, talk with local advocates about the potential impacts of the revisions, and share your feedback on the new health and equity components of the draft guidelines.
You can join the discussion about this event on Twitter at #Blueprint4Health.
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.
Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 137, a bill by Senator Ed Hernandez, to ensure accurate, updated, and standardized provider directories. Co-sponsored by California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), Consumers Union, and Health Access California, SB 137 will:
Make updated provider directories available to consumers both when they are shopping for plans and when they are using their benefits.
Update provider directories weekly—better than the federal standard of at least monthly.
Providing accurate information on important specifics such as office location and whether the provider is accepting new patients.
Allow consumers from diverse backgrounds to identify health plans and providers that can best meet their needs by indicating what languages other than English (if any) providers and their staff speak (for more details and rationale,see separate SB 137 fact sheet).
The measure had strong support from a range of consumer and community groups, with new urgency given the additional Californians in coverage under the Affordable Care Act — some with new ability to shop but needing accurate provider to make informed plan selections; others newly insured but who live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford inadvertent out-of-network costs.