Thursday, May 18th, 2006, San Francisco City Hall
Good Afternoon. My name is Tammy Johnson, and I am the Director of the Race and Public Policy Program at the Applied Research Center. The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a national public policy institute, based in Oakland, CA, that advances racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism.
For millions of Californians, the issue of accessible quality health care is a matter of life or death. This is especially true for people of color, who are more likely to live, work and attend school in areas that are environmentally toxic and hazardous, less likely to have health insurance and less likely to receive quality care. The reality is that in this state, people of color experience vastly different health outcomes than whites. These outcomes are especially stark when it comes to health of women of color. For instance:
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer for most women of color, including African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinas.
• For Location women, lung cancer is the most common cancer.
• And while white women have the highest incidence of breast cancer, African American women have the highest cancer death rate.
Here in California, 71% of the state’s uninsured are people of color. These 2.5 million workers of color, many of whom are women, are not offered or eligible for health care benefits. Addressing these disparities requires advancing health care policy that has a proactive approach to addressing institutional racism within the health care system. We at the Applied Research Center believe that this is possible. But how?
First we must improve health care in medically underserved areas, which are often communities of color.
We must develop health care institutions that are welcoming and respectful to people of different races and ethnicities, and to the needs working families.
We must track disparities. That means collecting data aggregated by race and gender, as a means of holding health care institutions accountable.
And finally, and most importantly we must eliminate disparities in access to health insurance. This includes working toward a universal health care system that guarantees basic health care access, and expanding public health programs such as Medicaid. That is why we believe that State Senator Sheila Kuehl is on the right track with SB840: the health Care for All Californians Act.
The debate about access to quality health care is more than the mounting volumes of statistics. It’s about the life and death struggle that millions face every day. That’s why we must take action now, not tomorrow, if we’re going to provide high-quality health care to all.