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Voices for Health Equity

Voices for Health Equity

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.  

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 students reporting depression-related feelings in Fresno County.

We have been talking a lot about mental health recently. If you’ve been following the blog this week, you will have seen that we hosted two town hall meetings, one in Fresno and the other in Oakland, to discuss the California Reducing Disparities Project’s (CRDP) draft Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities. These events have generated great discussion and a number of comments that we will be incorporating into the final plan after the ongoing public comment period ends on February 17th.

While we have talked so much about the strategic plan in this space, we haven’t focused on some of the actual mental health needs that it will address. So, for this Friday Facts, we are going to look at a chart representing the percentage of students experiencing depression-related feelings in Fresno County. As you can see, at least 1 in 4 students in each racial/ethnic group have reported experiencing depression-related feelings in the last year. There are some noticeable disparities, as Pacific Islanders (nearly half), Asians, and Latinos reported experiencing depression-related feelings at higher rates. But it is clear that this particular issue impacts all communities.


The land of sunshine, celebrities, and world-famous beaches is also home to 5,000 active oil and gas wells. These wells are spread across 10 oil fields and 70 different sites embedded in neighborhoods, parks, and commercial districts throughout the City of Los Angeles. Although oil drilling occurs in diverse neighborhoods ranging from affluent Cheviot Hills to pollution-burdened Wilmington, in a new issue brief, Oil Drilling in Los Angeles: A Story of Unequal ProtectionsCommunity Health Councils found low-income communities of color in the City have fewer protections from the risks from local oil drilling operations than more affluent, whiter neighborhoods.

What does “fewer protections” mean? When Zoning Administrators for Los Angeles determined the terms of drilling in affluent communities in the 1950s and 1960s, they noted oil drilling was an activity more suited for industrial zones, and only allowed drilling in the Wilshire and West Los Angeles areas after a strict set of precautionary measures were enacted. Precautionary measures included enclosing drilling equipment and/or sites, monitoring air quality and noise levels, creating a 24-hour hotline for complaints and concerns, and setting stringent property screening measures like tall trees and walls to block sight of unattractive equipment. The oil drilling that occurs in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods is either at least 400 feet farther away from homes than in the lower-income communities of South Los Angeles and Wilmington — where the majority of the residents are Latino and African American — or is partially or completely enclosed to protect the neighboring community from the myriad risks. Conversely, oil drilling in South Los Angeles and Wilmington is not only closer to homes than wealthier communities, but also completely outdoors. 

Over 75 mental health advocates representing diverse communities in Oakland gathered today to provide feedback on the California Reducing Disparities Project’s (CRDP) Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Mental Health Disparities. The town hall meeting was the second of five organized by CPEHN, the plan’s author, as part of an ongoing 35-day public comment period that ends on February 17th. The room was buzzing with excited conversation and thoughtful engagement as small groups of advocates discussed ways to strengthen this one-of-a-kind strategic plan.

Equity Atlas

Welcome to Tuesday Tidbits! This space will be used every week to highlight new resources, upcoming events, and other resources related to improving health and fostering equity. If you would like your resource/event to be highlighted, please let me know at Thanks!

If you’re curious about how equitable your community is, then PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California (PERE) have the perfect tool for you. The recently launched National Equity Atlas is an informative resource that allows you to examine a number of equity indicators (demographics, economic vitality, etc.) on a national, state, and regional level. For example, you can see a map of communities of color in California and also examine by region the job and GDP growth rate.

If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, that’s okay because PolicyLink and PERE are hosting Tools for Social Change: The National Equity Atlas, a webinar tomorrow (January 28th) at 10 am PST. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

“During this webinar, our speakers will describe the equity framework, take you on a tour of the Atlas, and share examples of how foundations can employ equity data and policy strategies to foster inclusive growth.”

Be sure to register for the free event and follow along on Twitter at #ncrpchat and #equityatlas.

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.