CDPH releases strategic plan to heal health disparities in the state

August 31, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy Mental Health Public Health 

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Office of Health Equity (OHE) released a strategic plan, Portrait of Promise: The California Statewide Plan to Promote Health and Mental Health Equity, that examines health and mental health equity, as well as the social, economic and environmental conditions that affect health.

“As a physician and a public health officer, I have seen firsthand how those who suffer the stresses of poverty and discrimination also suffer disproportionately from conditions that shorten lives and lower quality of life,” said Karen Smith, M.D., CDPH director and state health officer. “With a better data-based understanding of the causes and consequences of inequity, we will be better prepared to take the steps to improve the health of all Californians.” 

OHE was created within the CDPH in order to eliminate unjust and preventable disparities in health and mental health for all California residents. Portrait of Promise is the first demographic report and statewide strategic plan for OHE. It presents evidence on the root causes of health inequities and offers strategies on how to address them. 

According to the reportalmost one in four children in California lives in poverty, which is one factor that negatively impacts health. Other inequities include: the fact that African Americans have higher death rates than all other races and ethnicities; African American families in California are also twice as likely as white families to suffer the loss of an infant; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youths suffer from high rates of suicide; and single women and their families live in greater poverty because women make less money than men.

“The data shows that income, education level, race, ethnicity, employment status, gender identity and sexual orientation are all related to health and health outcomes for Californians. Beyond the social and moral implications of inequities, there is also a financial burden to be paid as well,” said Jahmal Miller, deputy director of OHE. 

The report also found that black and Latino physicians are under-represented in the workforce. Among all active physicians in 2012, 52 percent were white; 21 percent were Asian; 4 percent were Latino and 3 percent were African American.

Income is also a key factor in determining health outcomes. For example, the report found that 40 percent of all Californians with severe asthma live in households with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. It also found that poor women in California are less likely to receive mammograms or Pap testes when compared with higher-income women.

Portrait of Promise calls for better data collection and analysis to identify and respond to inequities, strategic communication to build awareness and enlist support in the fight against inequities, and changes in infrastructure aligned with the equitable health needs of the community. The strategic plan calls for leveraging the collective strengths of public and private resources in order to address the causes of the disparities. 

To see a copy of the OHE report, click here.


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