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Voices for Health Equity

Voices for Health Equity

To be [Black] in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.
-James Baldwin

If you’re in a rage all the time, what does that do to your blood pressure? What does it do to your health? I was talking to my own doctor recently about my blood pressure, which is higher than either of us would like, and he was running through the various medical treatment options to lower blood pressure when I asked him, “Isn’t it possible that this crazy election with the racist Trump campaign has me really stressed out? And couldn’t that explain my high pressure?” We set another appointment for after the election, and my fingers are crossed, but the whole experience has heightened my appreciation for the health impacts of America’s racial realities.

America is coming to the realization that we are going through a demographic revolution that has profound implications for government, non-profits, businesses, media, and academia. And it also has transformative implications for our public health. Fortunately, the transformation of the racial composition of our society also provides the potential political power to pass public policies to make life better for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds.

Frustrated. Mad. Those were just two of the ways I felt as I toured the recently opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

It was a homecoming of sorts for me. I live in California, but I was born and raised 10 miles from the museum, in Alexandria, Va., in a black neighborhood affectionately referred to as Mudtown.

As I walked the halls of the beautifully curated museum, the exhibits brought back vivid — and painful — memories of my childhood in the early 1960s. Memories that made me angry about how much we sometimes take our hard-won rights for granted.

For decades, Virginia chose a path of massive resistance to civil rights, putting up barrier after barrier to disenfranchise its black residents. One of the state’s most effective tools was the poll tax, a shameful policy whose sole purpose was to keep people — African Americans specifically — from having a vote or a voice.

I remember eavesdropping on election-time conversations at church or around the dinner table as my parents and their friends and neighbors talked about the tax. Many said they couldn’t afford it and wouldn’t vote. Others talked about refusing to pay in a show of protest. A few advocated compliance, citing the importance of voting at any cost. But even those with money in hand were often denied the right to cast a ballot as new requirements were dreamt up to shut them out.

In general, Virginia was a tough place for black people to live back then. Not only was there a state-sanctioned campaign to keep blacks from voting, segregation was firmly entrenched. I was born in a segregated hospital. My mom was so outraged by the shoddy treatment she received that when it came time to deliver my younger siblings, she made the trek across the river to D.C., to Howard University’s Freedmen’s Hospital, founded in 1862 to aid in the medical treatment of former slaves.

Today, Governor Brown signed into law SB 1139 (Lara), which will prevent medical degree and healing arts training program programs from discriminating against students on the basis of immigration status and will open up state loan repayment and scholarships to undocumented individuals. 

CPEHN is proud to have co-sponsored the bill with Pre-Health Dreamers and to have Senator Ricardo Lara champion this measure.

Right now, bright, qualified Californians are ready and willing to care for our most medically-underserved populations. Today’s signature clears a path for our communities’ aspiring health professionals to pursue their dreams and help meet the cultural and linguistic needs of our state.

We can’t thank enough Pre-Health Dreamers and MedDreamers for their incredible leadership and enthusiasm. Together, we were able to highlight the passionate young Californians willing to pursue a healthcare career to meet our state’s provider shortages and show the incredible support our aspiring undocumented students have from those practicing in the medical field.

Thank you to everyone who supported the bill!

On Sunday, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1726, the AHEAD Act, into law. This new policy will provide California's Department of Public Health with more granular data on the diverse Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) populations it serves. Better data on the different needs of our communities translates to more effective public health strategies that save lives.

We applaud the Governor for furthering California's leadership in AANHPI data disaggregation. In 2011, Assemblymember Mike Eng's legislation, AB 1088, was signed into law, requiring the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and Department of Industrial Relations to collect data on additional AANHPI sub­groups. AB 1726 expands this by including the Department of Public Health, and empowering previously invisible communities, like Hmong and Tongan, with the tools  they need to advocate for their own good health. We look forward to working together with the Department of Public Health to implement the law. We also extend our deep appreciation to Assemblymember Rob Bonta for championing this issue as the author of this bill.

We also commend the University of California and the California State University systems, which have agreed to voluntarily implement expanded data disaggregation and reporting that were previously included under AB 1726. We are committed to working with the California Community Colleges and Department of Health Care Services to collect and report disaggregated data for those entities. We also maintain our dedication to comprehensive data disaggregation at all public institutions and agencies. We look forward to working with policymakers to ensure visibility, equity, and justice for our communities.

Our biennial conference Voices for Change: Seizing the Momentum for Health Equity is a month away! The speakers and workshops are set, and CPEHN is busy preparing for a fantastic day of dynamic discussions with our friends, colleagues and allies.  We see our statewide conference as the time for us to step back and reflect on our unified goals for the health of our communities across California. As a conference attendee, you will be the first to receive a copy of our report called, The Landscape of Opportunity - Cultivating Health Equity in California. This labor of love is published every three years and we are excited to share our third edition of the report with you!

The Landscape of Opportunity uses current data and research to examine health across a broad spectrum of factors and social conditions. Inequities in socioeconomic status, education, the physical environment and access to resources can limit our ability to achieve optimal health. Throughout the report, we describe the complex relationship between structural factors and health outcomes. Building on CPEHN’s 25 years of advocacy, the Landscape of Opportunity proposes a policy framework for health equity focused on creating just systems and structures for better health.

Today is a special day for me. It marks my 2-year anniversary as CPEHN’s Executive Director. And even more, it marks an important turning point in my leadership journey. When colleagues and friends ask me, “How does it feel?” or “How is it going?” I can’t help but compare my leadership trajectory to Max’s development, my three-year-old son. When I was hired as a brand new ED, Max was 10 months old. He wasn’t talking or walking. He would point and grunt when we saw something he liked or wanted. He was standing up but couldn’t take steps on his own. I often felt like that in my early days. I didn’t know exactly what to say and at times stood a little sheepishly, and even needed the company of others in important meetings. Over the course of two years, he and I have learned how to talk and walk together. For Max, he has literally learned to talk, my husband and I often stare at each other in amazement at some of the things he says. And he is now walking, mostly running around, like a whirling dervish, especially on Friday nights after a long week.

The latest issue of our Health Equity Forum newsletter came out today and it includes several great articles and dozens of resources.

CPEHN’s Executive Director, Sarah de Guia, opens the newsletter reflecting on her two years as CPEHN's Executive Director! 

Our Ethnic Partner Spotlight features an article from the The California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB) on an upcoming child passenger safety course designed to reduce injuries. This programis a part of CRIHB's dedication to provide safety and injury prevention services to California’s rural Indians.



We stand for racial justice.

As AB 1726, the AHEAD Act (D-Bonta), reaches the Senate Floor, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) continue to stand proudly with our community-driven movement to advance the civil rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) by calling for data disaggregation of our diverse community.

We stand united with over 120 health, legal, education, and civil rights organizations in support of a bill seeking to identify differences between groups and use this information to develop solutions that will save lives. 

Together we recognize the reality that race plays a major role in determining the health and education outcomes of AANHPIs. Because of efforts to collect disaggregated data, we know health disparities exist. We know Korean men are twice as likely to die of cancer as Asian Indian men, Filipino men are more than twice as likely to die from kidney disease as Korean men, and the rate of uterine cancer among Samoan women more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, but remained stable among Native Hawaiian women over the same time period.

We Call Upon the Governor and California State Legislature to Support AB 1726

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) stands together with over 110 health, legal, education and civil rights organizations in strong support of better data collection through AB 1726 (Bonta), the AHEAD Act.

Health data saves lives. Only from data collection and analysis are we able to understand who is most affected by certain diseases and health threats. With data, we can monitor when the medical system is not reaching a community in need. With data, we can advocate to create prevention programs that address the needs of each community in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way. From healthcare use, disease patterns, and environmental health hazards, data equips healthcare providers and policymakers with tools to make the right decisions---decisions that save lives.

Healthcare for children, families, seniors, and our communities requires a commitment not just to the individual but to the collective. Proven, scientific strategies, such as data collection and analysis, help us identify and address health disparities. Without critical information on race and ethnicity, we all pay the price.

Unfortunately, opponents have fallen prey to political tactics seeking to create a wedge between our communities. Using fear and manipulation, they are trying to invoke horrible events of our history to make political gains. They are fearful of our collective power, our growing numbers, and our powerful voices.

Let’s stand together for real change. Let’s challenge the status quo. Let’s make our lives better and continue to improve essential civil rights and services that make us stronger and healthier.

Written By: Jonathan Tran, HIP Member. Content reflects Mr. Tran's personal opinions and do not reflect the position of any other organization.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. Like so many other Southeast Asian families, my parents worked A LOT. They took multiple shifts and worked overtime whenever they could. That left the child rearing during those long hours to my “ah kong” (grandpa) and “ah ma” (grandma). One of my earliest memories was a casual day with ah kong in the garden we had in the backyard. He paused from his yard work when I came up behind him. I distinctly remember him reaching into a massive bucket, his face beaming with excitement and pulling out a giant guava the size of my head. I didn’t appreciate this until I was older, but growing a mutant-sized guava in the desert of Los Angeles is no easy task. I could feel the pride he had in this monstrosity of a fruit because of all the labor and time he had put into growing and cultivating it.