Last Wednesday, our mornings were punctured by the news of yet another mass shooting underway, this time on the University of California-Los Angeles campus. Two members of our staff were on campus at the time. On that very same day, gun violence elsewhere in Los Angeles County claimed at least six more lives, and forever changed many more, though these deaths in neighborhoods just miles from the UCLA campus did not receive the same level of media attention.
All these events matter terribly. We’ve sadly come to expect this discrepancy in mainstream news coverage, which downplays the trauma faced by communities most impacted by violence, and the conditions that engender that violence. But this weekend, NBC Bay Area aired a remarkable segment that explored the widening gulf between the “two Oaklands,” one shaped by economic opportunity and the other by a lack of opportunity, and showed the implications of this divide when it comes to safety and resilience. Rather than viewing incidents of violence in isolation, this powerful piece of reporting examined the broader context of violence.
PI board member and partner in our violence and trauma work, Dr. Howard Pinderhughes, was interviewed for the segment, and elaborated on the community conditions that affect safety: “You have highly impacted poor communities, where businesses have left, where government has essentially pulled out, and where you’ve had large-scale public and private disinvestment …”
How can California’s new majority lead policies to ensure equitable growth within local communities? How can we create and implement policies and opportunities that create good jobs for local residents?
These are the questions people wrestled with during Greenlining’s 23rd Annual Economic Summit, "Reinventing California – Solutions from the New Majority." The eagerness and goal of the attendees, from advocates to government leaders, was clear: To engage in meaningful discussions around equity and justice for our communities, and beyond that, to move forward and turn these ideas into tangible solutions.
One of the hottest topics of the day was the issue of gentrification, evident by the passionate opinions and heartbreaking stories shared. People teared up as they shared personal stories about their neighbors who were like family but now displaced into spaces and towns far away from home. Gentrification. A word that has become commonplace in the last several years but still manages to sting every time you hear it, because its more than a word, it is a system of oppression.
The staff at Greenlining also created a Thinking Lab session to facilitate discussion beyond the very real pain of gentrification, and into a space where we could share ideas and swap strategies for action. Some of the ideas and challenges that emerged included generating political will, changing power dynamics, strengthening renter protection, and developing sustainable affordable housing. Feeling like you missed out? No need to worry, Greenlining staff created some audio podcasts of the panel discussion. Click here to check it out.
At first glance, the headline above may seem puzzling. What do hospitals have to do with climate change? Let me explain.
California’s Central Valley contains six of the 10 most polluted cities, according the American Lung Association. Sadly, Orlando (pictured above) is just one of the many residents of the Valley who suffers from asthma that is largely caused or worsened by the poor air quality. Orlando uses a nebulizer, a device that administers medication in the form of a mist, to treat his asthma during school recesses. In the Fresno Unified School District, almost one in five students have asthma.
In response to this epidemic, Kaiser Permanente donated $20,000 to help the school district buy more nebulizer tubes to treat students. We applaud Kaiser’s leadership on this, but it’s only a start. More not-for-profit hospitals need to act similarly, and most importantly, they need to go beyond short-term assistance and target the root causes of poor air quality in the Central Valley, from car emissions to fuel industry polluters. If Orlando had clean air to breathe, he wouldn’t need that nebulizer so often.
For the past several years, Greenlining has led a statewide coalition to advocate for not-for-profit hospitals to increase investments that improve the holistic health and well-being of communities of color and low-income communities. Each year, not-for-profit hospitals receive billions of dollars in tax exemptions and subsidies – totaling nearly $3.3 billion amongst not-for-profit hospital systems in California in 2010. In exchange, these hospitals are required to provide vital investments that address the health needs of the communities they serve, with an emphasis on building community health and disease prevention. These investments are known as community benefits.
Communities of color and low-income communities, California’s most vulnerable populations, have the most to gain from community benefits when these investments target the root causes of poor health – poverty, lack of access to healthy foods, and poor air and water quality, to name a few.
CPEHN’s Executive Director, Sarah de Guia, opens the newsletter by discussing Health4All Kids implementation. Starting on May 16th, California will offer Medi-Cal coverage to all eligible children regardless of immigration status.
Our Ethnic Partner Spotlight features an article from the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) on two new briefs about obesity and other health conditions affecting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community.
At Covered California’s latest April Board meeting, Executive Director Peter Lee declared: “We are raising the bar not just for California but for the nation.” Mr. Lee was referring to the bold initiatives adopted by the Covered California board that they expect will improve quality of care for Covered California enrollees, make advances in hospital safety, and promote primary prevention and wellness. The contracts will include 45 separate distinct requirements on plans focused on improving health outcomes for Covered California enrollees (See Attachment 7).
Starting in 2017, Covered California’s contracts will require health plans to demonstrate year-over-year reductions in health disparities in four targeted areas of chronic disease: diabetes, asthma, hypertension and behavioral health. In order to accurately measure disparities, health plans will be required to share quality and performance data for all their lines of business. Additionally, plans will be required to increase the percentage of self-reported demographic data for their Covered California enrollees with a goal of 80% of enrollees reporting by the end of 2019.
One of the ways CPEHN participated in National Minority Health Month in April was by co-hosting a panel of experts with the Asian Pacific Islander Capital Association to discuss the status of health equity among the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community. The experts highlighted various approaches we can all take to eliminate health disparities disproportionally affecting certain API communities.
What are the barriers keeping communities from achieving a healthy community?
“You can’t fix what you don’t know,” proclaimed Jonathan Tran from The California Endowment. He was referring to the lack of information and data available regarding South East Asian communities. Before funding and resources can be streamlined into building a healthier community, access to comprehensive data must exist. Since data regarding Asian Americans is characterized for as a whole, research studies are limited in their ability to accurately identify information about the issues affecting specific Asian American subgroups. When all communities are counted for and validated, the numbers can be used to implement change. The AHEAD Act — AB 1726 — addresses this necessary concern by requiring higher education institutions and public health agencies to disaggregate data for additional API groups.
Many Californians face huge challenges in accessing substance use treatment services. Social and environmental factors including low socioeconomic status, low literacy, unemployment, discrimination, and other factors negatively impact our ability to lead healthy lives. Many people of color and Limited English Proficient populations additionally face a lack of culturally competent and linguistically appropriate services. Further, stigma and discrimination linked with accessing services also remain barriers to accessing treatment for many, especially those with previous criminal justice involvement.
California’s Medi-Cal 2020 1115(a) Waiver Demonstration Project provides new opportunities to expand substance use services to include a fuller continuum of care that includes withdrawal management, medication-assisted treatment, short-term residential, case management and care coordination with physical and mental health, and recovery support services. Drug Medi-Cal eligibility also expands to include single adults without children, which mean more people are able to receive substance use treatment services than ever before.
To address these barriers and disparities, communities of color – those most in need of services – need to be involved in the development and design of treatment options, and policymakers must consider the root causes of substance use disorders in vulnerable and underserved communities. That’s why CPEHN is engaging our communities to get involved so that the needs of underserved communities are included and addressed in the implementation of these new services. With stakeholder input from underserved populations, county departments of behavioral health can better meet the needs of the most vulnerable communities.
Come out and Support the Oakland Sugar Sweetened Beverage Distributors Tax at the May 3rd Oakland City Council Meeting!
On May 3rd, the Oakland City Council will vote on placing a Sugar Sweetened Beverage Distributors Tax on the November 2016 ballot. The Rules and Leg Committee voted unanimously on April 7th to bring the measure to the full council. Over 35 speakers signed up to talk and displayed an amazing show of support. In an emotional ending, Councilmember Larry Reid shared the recent loss of his young nephew to complications from undiagnosed diabetes, as well as his and his family’s history with diabetes. He shared he used to drink soda like water, before he knew the detrimental effects. This tax measure will help raise awareness, decrease consumption, and provide funding for community programs that combat the impact of sugary drinks. The City Council needs to vote YES to place it on the ballot!
The measure is supported by the Coalition for Healthy Oakland Children, a broad coalition of concerned public health professionals, elected officials, parents, faith and community leaders and concerned residents pulling together to address the diabetes crisis and other chronic diseases related to sugary beverages, and to improve health through education and the passage of health policy. While the industry is worried about their profits, coalition members are worried about the health and future of our next generation.