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Ethnic Healthcare Groups Prescribe Prevention and Access to Care

New America Media, News Report, Jun Wang Posted: Jul 05, 2009

LOS ANGELES As the U.S. Congress considers proposals to reform the nations healthcare system, participants at a day-long health policy conference highlighted the importance of primary and preventive care and the need to improve access to quality care for low income communities.

At an event organized by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network at the California Endowment, community service providers and health care advocates offered their prescriptions for creating an effective health delivery system.

Dr. RossDr. Robert Ross, The California Endowment Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment noted that income inequalities are part of the problem and a factor in the gap between the care low-income people receive and those with higher incomes. How many of your parents have been raised in poverty? Your grandparents and great grandparents? he asked.

The president reminds us this country takes people out of hopeless situations and poverty, and transforms them into hopefulness, opportunity and change, he said. But, Ross added 85 percent of healthcare issues are not resolvable by doctors. They are concerning poverty and disparity.

To empower underserved populations, the Endowment will invest in 40 grassroots organizations to improve healthcare accessibility and quality in low-income communities.

Donzella Lee, of the California Black Health Network, said that there are about 1,000 community clinics in California providing services to the uninsured and under-insured.

Healthcare PanelHo Luong Tran, M.D., Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum Lee said the clinics provide preventive services and screening services. But many of them dont have specialty services, and patients need to go to county facilities where waits for a specialist range from three to six months.

Those already limited services will shrink further because of the state budget cutbacks. Calls for comprehensive health reform have grown even louder stimulated by the cuts.

Health reform is essential to the debate of what kind of a society we want, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a health care consumer advocacy coalition. It is about how we spend our money in a more effective way.

As universal healthcare is one of the major goals of the reform, Lee said, we want everyone to have access to healthcare that is a starting point.

Wright urged all Californians to get involved into the health reform efforts. He said California has more uninsured people than any other state. According to Health Access California, 20.4 percent of California residents have no health insurance, compared to a national rate of 17.2 percent. Almost 8 percent of Californians buy health coverage from the individual healthcare market, while the national rate is 5.5 percent.

Financially speaking, prevention is not only cheaper than treatment, it also could be an unexpected solution to the recession, said Manal Aboelata, program director of the Prevention Institute in Oakland.

Aboelata said currently only 4 percent of the $2.2 trillion national health expenditures go to preventive services. An Institute study shows that increased investment in prevention could yield a $16 billion return in five years.

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