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Voices for Health Equity

Voices for Health Equity

December 1, 2014, marked the passing of one of the great lights in the struggle for health equity – Lark Galloway-Gilliam. Lark served as the executive director of nonprofit health advocacy organization Community Health Councils (CHC) since its founding in 1992. That year may be a familiar one to the people of Los Angeles, and that’s because CHC was started as a direct response to the civil unrest. Many of the health care establishments that burned to the ground were owned by outsiders and perceived as out of touch with the needs of the community. Lark saw the need for change and – along with several other women in the community – brought together a coalition to address health issues in South Los Angeles.

In its more than two decades of operation, Lark grew CHC into an influential advocacy organization that led efforts to eliminate disparities in health by expanding coverage, improving the health care safety net in underserved communities, increasing access to healthy and affordable foods, and most recently, improving the environment in areas with inadequate resources for healthy and active living.

Lark was a hero who fought for the underserved not only in Los Angeles and California, but across this country. She served as an innovative thinker in the public administration and nonprofit sectors for more than 25 years. She was the chair of the National REACH Coalition, a member of the Advancing the Movement Advisory Committee, and a Durfee Foundation Sabbatical Awardee. She served as chair of her local Neighborhood Council. Lark dedicated her life to social justice.  

Below is a press release sent out today by Assemblymember Ed Chau's office introducing a bill that CPEHN is sponsoring. Be sure to check back here on our blog for updates on this important legislation in the coming months!

Sacramento — Today, Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) introduced AB 389, which would direct a general acute hospital to post its language assistance policy for limited-English proficient (LEP) individuals online and require the California Department of Public Health and the Office of Statewide Planning and Development to post this information on their websites, as well.

“For many Californian’s who are not proficient in English, the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate staff and services remains a major barrier to accessing adequate healthcare,” said Assemblymember Chau. “Failure to provide language access can lead to serious consequences, such as higher rates of hospitalization, drug complications, and not returning for follow-ups after an emergency room visit.”

California’s Kopp Act requires all hospitals in the state to file a copy of their language assistance policy, and annual updates, with the Department of Public Health (DPH). The intent is to ensure that every resident, regardless of language capability, can access health services in a hospital setting. However, hospitals currently submit their policies and procedures to the respective DPH Licensing and Certification District Office. Having the policies spread out makes it difficult for policymakers and the public to access them and to ensure the appropriate protections and practices set forth by the State are being adhered to. AB 389 would provide greater transparency and oversight of the Kopp Act by centralizing this information to confirm that hospitals are complying with this key accountability measure and meeting the needs of LEP patients. 

Yesterday in Eureka, CPEHN hosted the fifth and final town hall meeting to discuss the draft of the California Reducing Disparities Project’s Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Disparities in Mental Health. The resulting discussion, which coincided with the final day for public comment on the document, revealed the unique needs faced by the population in Humboldt County and other areas across Northern California.

The overarching theme throughout the meeting was that more emphasis needs to be placed on the unique needs faced by rural populations when interacting with mental health services. Some challenges faced by rural communities include finding adequate transportation to and from mental health services, and the lack of available mental health specialists and professionals. Unlike many of the state’s urban areas, California’s rural areas often have a handful of mental health providers for an entire county or region. At the Eureka town hall, attendees stressed that that the voice of rural California must be included in the final Strategic Plan and that the document can’t be heavily urban-centric. There was also a consensus that more needs to be done to encourage workforce development and capacity building in California’s rural counties and that there should be incentives for providers to work in these areas.

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

If you’re interested in California’s state budget, its economy, and strategies to improve the lives of its low-income residents, then you’re probably aware of the great work done by the California Budget Project (CBP). And if you are interested in all of these things and can make it to Sacramento on March 4th, then you should definitely register for CBP’s upcoming conference, Policy Insights 2015.

Celebrating CBP’s 20th anniversary, the conference is billed as “the premier conference for advocates, policymakers, researchers and other leaders working to improve the lives of low- and middle-income Californians.” Given the agenda, that hardly seems like an exaggeration.

Ezra Klein, the editor-in-chief of Vox.com will provide the keynote and discuss how analysis and commentary can shape public policy. After that there are two all-star plenary panels. The first, with Joe Mathews from Zócalo Public Square, state Senator Holly J. Mitchell, and Manuel Pastor from the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC, will focus on the changes California will face in regards to demographics, the economy, and other social conditions.

The second plenary panel will feature the former Director of the California Department of Finance, Ana J. Matosantos, the former Speaker of the Assembly John A. Perez, and former state Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg. They will be discussing policies that can help create an era of economic prosperity in California that can benefit all its residents.

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 number of unhealthy air quality days each year as a result of ozone pollution in Riverside County.

While we have focused a great deal on health outcomes and socioeconomic factors contributing to health disparities in California, another root cause is our environment. It is much harder to live a healthy life when the air you breathe can cause you harm. For today’s Friday Facts, we’re looking at a particular form of pollution, ozone, in Riverside County.

As you can see from the table on our Data and Resources section, everyone living in Riverside County experiences roughly six weeks of unhealthy air quality days due to ozone pollution each summer. While there are some disparities (for example, African Americans average about a week’s worth of unhealthy days more than Whites), it is clear that this is an issue impacting all communities in the county. But what does “unhealthy air quality days” mean? Well, in this instance it is the number of days between May and October that have a level of ozone in the air that is higher than what is considered safe by federal standards.

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 ddexter@cpehn.org. 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 HealthyCity.org 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.

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