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Health Decision Will Have Big Impact on California’s Ethnic Communities

A sign from a recent health care rally (seiuhealthcare775nw/Flickr)

Health disparities in the state are stark.

“Diabetes affects 13 percent of Native Americans in the state, 11 percent of Latinos, 10 percent of African Americans,” says Ellen Wu, the executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN). “That’s compared to five percent of the white population.”

Wu says there’s a gap in access to care too. That’s why the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act is such a watershed moment for her.

She says of the three million Californians who will now be eligible for coverage through the state’s health benefit exchange in 2014, two-thirds come from communities of color.

“For example with diabetes … they’ll be able to get screened earlier and prevent it. And when they do have onset they’ll be able to manage their care better and stay healthier,” said Wu.

The same goes for asthma, she said. “We know that for communities of color, they can show up in the emergency room for an asthma attack at higher rates than whites so the free preventive care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is really, really critical to keeping our communities healthy.”

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