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San Francisco Marin Medical Society Blog

Health Disparities in California by Race and Ethnicity Examined

Health Disparities Persist in California for People of Color

California is one of the nation’s most diverse states. While we Californians celebrate our differences, we also acknowledge the many ways in which we are similar. One similarity is a desire to have access to the high-quality health care necessary to lead a long, healthy, and productive life. Another is a desire for our fellow Californians to have the same.

In Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity: The California Landscape, the newest addition to the California Health Care Almanac series, data show that we are not living up to our shared ideal. People of color face barriers to accessing health care, often receive suboptimal treatment, and are most likely to experience poor outcomes in the health care system. A related quick reference guide reports on performance on selected quality measures for racially diverse populations that receive care through Medi-Cal managed care. The measures include data on preventive care, emergency department visits, and hospital readmission rates. 

In a related blog, Ernest Moy, executive director of the Office of Health Equity of the Veterans Health Administration, and Donna Washington from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine discuss the drivers of health disparities in the health care system, including the role of institutional racism and implicit bias on the part of providers and institutions. The authors also note the importance of collecting data on health care disparities among people of color and targeting quality improvement efforts for those groups receiving poor care.

“Health care is a small but essential part of what determines a person’s total health,” notes California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) President and CEO Dr. Sandra R. Hern├índez in a recent blog. “These differences only partially explain why some groups have worse health outcomes than others. The delivery system, however, has an outsized role to play in addressing them.” There are some bright spots where progress is being made, such as the Affordable Care Act’s success in eliminating disparities in health insurance coverage between white and Black Californians, and the important steps public hospitals are taking to reduce disparities for people of color who have diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health issues.

Read the report to learn more.

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