December 29, 2000

New California Health Survey Makes History By Reaching Out to All Ethnic Groups

The largest health survey ever conducted in California officially launched last week in an effort to determine the health status of the state's diverse and emerging populations. The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), which will seek information from more than 55,000 households statewide, was developed as a collaborative undertaking of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, California Department of Health Services, and the Public Health Institute.

Community leaders and state officials rallied at a press conference in Los Angeles to encourage residents to answer the survey when they are called on the telephone starting this week. The survey will be conducted in six different languages. CHIS will capture information that will help improve local health programs throughout the state. The findings will be used to monitor the public's health and access to health care, target intervention activities, plan resource allocation, and develop public policy for adult, adolescent and child health care.

"Just as it is vitally important for Californians to participate in the Census, so is it equally important for them to participate in this survey," said State Health Director Diana M. Bontá, R.N., Dr. P.H. "The outcome will affect the health of every Californian. "I'm grateful to the Governor and the legislature for their support of this program."

The statewide telephone survey of more than 55,000 household is designed to obtain estimates on health-related measures for all of California's major ethnic groups —Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and non-Latino white.

The survey is being funded by the California Department of Health Services, The National Cancer Institute, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Children and Families Commission and the Indian Health Service at a cost of $11 million.

Dr. E. Richard Brown, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said, "We hope all Californians will understand how critically important their participation is and will take the CHIS call. We are working with community partners to get this message delivered."

The survey will generate statewide estimates, plus local-level estimates for counties and city health jurisdictions. Estimates for most counties will include breakouts by age groups and ethnic groups, depending on sample size.

Given the very limited data that currently exists on the health of California residents, results from this survey are eagerly awaited by health care providers, advocates, county health departments and state officials. The survey will run through the end of May, with results being disseminated through a variety of mechanisms to maximize the opportunities for public, community-based, and private-sector organizations to obtain and use them.

"This is our opportunity to make our voices count," said Monica Benitez, Statewide Health Care Outreach director, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). "Nothing is more important than ensuring that the future health care needs of our children and communities are met."

Dr. Charles DiSogra, director of the California Health Interview Survey, explained that households would be randomly selected to take part in the survey. Results of the survey are expected to be available by the end of 2001.

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