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Voices for Health Equity

Voices for Health Equity

California is a land of contrasts – especially for its youth. African American males in our state – the world’s 8th largest economy – are 18 times more likely to die from homicide than are their white peers. African American and Latina teen girls are three times more likely to have a baby than their White or Asian counterparts. African Americans are 40 percent more likely to have asthma than Whites and their death rate from asthma is two times higher.

Despite their health needs being greater, these communities have limited access to services. We know that African American and Latino youth in low-income communities are exposed to high levels of violence and stress, but only one in 10 who needs mental health services ever receives them.

During Black History Month, we’re reminded that equality for the African American community includes health equity. A half century ago the civil rights movement succeeded in focusing the nation’s attention on the injustices faced by African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities and a broad consensus emerged – backed by a raft of federal legislation – in support of the idea that a person’s fate in life should not be predetermined by the color of their skin.

Although there has been incredible progress on a variety of fronts in the ensuing years, there remain significant disparities between the races in a number of critical areas, one of the most prominent being health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans and other people of color live shorter and less healthy lives than whites, and suffer from significantly and often dramatically elevated rates of, to name just a few, premature cardiovascular mortality, diabetes, and infant mortality. Researchers from the Institute of Medicine found that racial and ethnic populations receive significantly inferior health care services, even controlling for all other factors, resulting in worse treatment outcomes.  

Welcome to Tuesday Tidbits! If you would like your resource/event to be highlighted, please let me know at Thanks!

If you’ve been following our blog over the last couple weeks, you know that we have been doing a lot of work on improving California’s mental health system. We have been to Fresno, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego for town hall meetings to receive public comment on the California Reducing Disparities Project’s draft Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities.

At these events, we have received a lot of great feedback, and a lot of it has focused on the best ways to provide behavioral health services to California’ diverse communities. We have heard a lot about integrating medical care and behavioral health services in a single, community-based environment. Many have supported this strategy, and now, thanks to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, we have some data to demonstrate the effectiveness of behavioral health integration. The recently released brief, One-Stop Shopping: Efforts to Integrate Physical and Behavioral Health Care in Five California Community Health Centers, takes a look at five large community health centers — which treat anywhere from 12,000 to 70,000 patients per year — and how they have integrated medical and behavioral health services.

Healthy City's Community Research Lab (CRL) shares best practices and methods for community-based organizations interested in supporting their strategies with research that combines community knowledge and technology. 

Working with residents in Santa Ana, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts recorded, highlighted, and mapped "Cultural Treasures" including individuals, organizations, places, and events. Through these maps they were able to share community knowledge, locate resources, and provide photos, videos, and other details in English and Spanish about these assets.

If you are interested in working with others in your community to research an issue, visualize your community’s story, and share your maps and research, join us in Orange County on February 24th – 26th as we host three days of free workshops!

The workshops run from 10 am – 4pm, and the topics will include:

Day 1: Community Assets on a Map: Facilitating a Community-Engaged Mapping Session
Day 2: Visualizing Your Community: Creating Maps that Tell Your Community's Story
Day 3: Hyperlocal Communications: Sharing Your Maps and Research

Apply to join us for one or all days! Space is limited and priority is given to organizations in Orange County working on behalf of community-based organizations on specific projects.

If you are interested in attending, you can apply online today. Applications are due by February 20th.

Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we'll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we're focusing on the infant mortality rate in California.

Today’s Friday Facts focuses on some sobering statistics about infant mortality in California. While the majority of births happen without incident, unfortunately, for every thousand babies born, there are a small number that don’t survive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the causes of infant mortality include serious birth defects, premature births, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and other injuries. 

While infant mortality impacts every community in California, there are some significant disparities. As you can see in our Friday Facts table, the infant mortality rate for African Americans (10.5 per 1,000) is nearly twice that of any other individual racial or ethnic group. This disparity is not unique for California, and according to the CDC, African Americans (13.3 per 1,000) have an infant mortality rate nearly twice the national average (6.8 per 1,000). The CDC also found that preterm-related causes were the driving factor behind this disparity, but African Americans also had higher rates of SIDS and congenital malformations compared to Whites.

Every year, dirty air kills over 9,000 Californians. Shockingly, more of us die from traffic-related pollution than from traffic-related accidents. Smog increases rates of asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and the five most polluted cities in America are all in California


Fortunately, something amazing is happening in California. We’re charging polluters for the damage they cause and using that money to clean the air, save families money, and bring investments and jobs to communities that need them. But too few Californians know this is happening, or the good it’s doing for our neighborhoods. UpLiftCA will change that. 

UpliftCA is a comprehensive campaign, with websites in both English and Spanish, which tells the story of how California’s climate policies are helping low-income communities and communities of color: cleaning the air, creating jobs and saving consumers money. The sites feature real-world stories, resources for both consumers and businesses, and more information about the laws. We invite you to visit UpLiftCA and share it with everyone you know. Come learn how California’s climate and clean energy laws and our fight against global warming are helping to build healthy, thriving neighborhoods.

The passion for improving mental health services in California’s communities of color and LGBTQ population was on display today in Los Angeles at our fourth community town hall meeting to discuss the California Reducing Disparities Project’s draft Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities. Over 75 mental health advocates, providers, and community members gathered at the California Community Foundation to discuss the draft plan, which will help direct the state’s efforts to improve mental health services for its diverse population.

The primary topic of conversation was that community and traditional programs are vital for providing trusted mental health services and should not be overshadowed during the statewide process. The concern was how a western approach to medicine is not always the best way to treat mental illness in diverse communities. Many of the community members in attendance wanted to make sure that these community and traditional programs, which are already working, should not be subsumed by the western philosophy of medicine and treatment. These were great points and we will be sure to include them when we work on the final plan.

Like in the previous three meetings – yesterday in San Diego and last week in Fresno and Oakland – cultural competency was a key theme. Attendees wanted to make sure that cultural competency was adequately defined in the plan and that specific strategies were included to help achieve it.

CPEHN hosted its third town hall meeting today in San Diego to discuss the California Reducing Disparities Project draft Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities. Dozens of mental health professionals, advocates, and community members gathered at the Sherman Heights Community Center to discuss the plan, which will establish priorities and recommendations for addressing mental health disparities throughout California’s communities of colors and LGBTQ population.

As in the first two meetings in Fresno and Oakland, the crowd appreciated the opportunity to comment on the plan. Many wanted to make sure that programs supported through the strategic plan have the necessary resources to be sustainable beyond the four-year pilot project. And like the other meetings, cultural competency was a recurring theme, with many pointing out the need for more Spanish-language resources in the Latino population.

Another key focus was on the importance of affirming all identities. In particular, some LGBTQ people of color identify as their race/ethnicity first and then as LGBTQ, so it is important that mental health providers (and all health providers) recognize and affirm each of these identities in order to effectively meet their needs.

Welcome to Tuesday Tidbits! If you would like your resource/event to be highlighted, please let me know at Thanks!

At CPEHN, much of our work has a focus on the social and environmental determinants of health. We know that health is about so much more than what happens in a doctor’s office; it is the result of our surroundings where we live, work, and learn. 

One key factor that influences our health is housing and transportation. In our 2012 report, The Landscape of Opportunity: Cultivating Health Equity in California, we discussed the importance of housing with access to safe transportation options, particularly in communities of color:

“Living in a neighborhood with sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly traffic patterns, and convenient public transportation makes it easier to be active and access important services. Residents in low-income areas are communities of color are often less likely to own a car, so they may rely more on public transportation to go to work, the doctor or the grocery store. … It is important to create safe streets for all users, using sidewalks, dedicated bike paths, and traffic calming measures to make it safer and easier to bike or walk to school and other activities and services.”

For today’s Tuesday Tidbits we’re focusing on a new funding opportunity that focuses on affordable housing and sustainable communities. This past week, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, in conjunction with the Strategic Growth Council, announced the availability of $120 million in funds for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program.

Women's Health

On March 17th , the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Education & Outreach Center (WHERC) will coordinate our fifth annual conference, Women's Reproductive Health and the Environment: Best Practices for Los Angeles County. The WHERC hosts evidence based research seminars for professionals working on issues of environmental justice, women’s health, and community outreach. Education about current environmental hazards impacting reproductive health is offered to motivate attendees to take action on a local level. This free conference will be held at The California Endowment in Los Angeles from 8:30 am – 2:00 pm.

We expect the 2015 conference will attract a similar audience who attended in 2014 with approximately 270 academicians, community organizers, policy advisors, and public health officials willing to learn about current research, policy and legislative issues, and community advocacy activities. Based upon feedback from last year’s conference, we will incorporate a panel highlighting grassroots advocacy organizations and their work towards promoting environmental health and reproductive health. This conference further evaluates best practices targeted at improving reproductive and environmental health concerns pertaining to the lives of individuals in Los Angeles County. 

For more information regarding the Women's Reproductive Health and the Environment: Best Practices for Los Angeles County conference and how to register, please follow this link. We also have previous conference materials and other resources available on our website.