March 16, 2001

The Foundation Consortium and Lt. Governor's Commission for One California to Examine Health Care Disparities for Children and Families

Sacramento — The Foundation Consortium, in partnership with the Lt. Governor's Commission for One California, will examine the disparities many of the state's children and families face in gaining access to health care at its 3rd annual California Policymakers Institute (CPI), March 22-23 at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica.

The conference, California Policymakers Institute on Health, Race, Poverty and California's Future—Improving Results for Children, Youth and Families, is an invitation-only event for state and local public makers and community leaders.

The CPI will focus on access to health care, disparities, and improving health outcomes for California's children and families, especially as they affect Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-American/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and the poor living in rural, suburban and urban areas.

Statistics point to alarming and growing health disparities among these groups with serious implications for the state's economic progress and the education of children whose poor health and diet may affect their classroom performance.

Of the uninsured children in California, for instance, 33% are Latino, 20% are Asian, and 14% are African-American. By contrast, only 10% of uninsured children in California are anglo.

Good health, however, is not just a matter of having insurance. Even though the number of African-Americans with health insurance is the highest of all groups of color, their incidence of low birth weight babies, a key indicator of future healthy development, is almost double that of all other minority groups.

While nearly half of Cali-fornia's children under age four are Latino, less than 5% of the doctors are Latino, a statistic that suggests language and cultural barriers to health care access.

Among Native Americans, a recent study revealed that fewer Medi-Cal-eligible American Indians in rural California counties use health services that non-Indians, and there are lower expenditures for those who do use services.

An average of 26% of Medi-Cal eligible Indians used a covered service per month, while 33% of eligible non-Indians used such services.

Medi-Cal paid on average $146 per month per Indian who used at least one service, however they paid $304 per month per non-Indian.

These findings, when combined, indicate that Medi-Cal paid less than one third as much ($46 vs. $142 per month) for each eligible Indian as they did for a non-Indian.

"California faces an urgent challenge in ensuring that the doors to health care are opened widely for all children and families," said Lt. Gov. Cruz Busta-mante. "When those doors are closed, the consequences involve not only poor health, they also impact children's education and the state's economy.

"This conference promises to move aggressively from dialogue to action," he added. "Public policy recommendations that we generate from this conference will help shape the Legislature's legislative agendas for 2001-02."

As one of the nation's first majority-minority states, California's diverse population shares a common vision of the future and of the state's needs, a recent report found. The study, "Funding Common Ground: Racial and Ethnic Attitudes in California," by the Public Policy Institute of California concluded that diverse Californians hold similar views of the state's changing social landscape, but strong differences in reaction to racial policies.

The Commission for One California serves as a forum to understand diversity, to provide information on how communities can address prejudice, intolerance and hate, and to advocate for state and national legislation that promotes unity among people.

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