Underserved Communities


Challenges to Mainstream Health Care in Oakland’s Underserved Communities

Sownai Saetern and Jan Tracie check blood pressures as Kimberly Nichole waits in line at the EOLA Health Fair in Oakland. (Adizah Eghan/KQED)

Sownai Saetern and Jan Tracie check blood pressures as Kimberly Nichole waits in line at a health fair in Oakland, put on by nursing students at Samuel Merritt University. (Adizah Eghan/KQED)

By Adizah Eghan

It’s not your normal health care setting: Reggaeton is thumping from a space where people are doing Zumba. Food is available – for free.

“He’s a white doctor, he just wouldn’t understand,” one woman’s grandmother told her.

It’s the annual health fair held at the East Oakland Leadership Academy, a charter school serving inner-city K-8 students. The health fair is organized by nursing students at Samuel Merritt University, and it serves a dual purpose: serving the Oakland community and recruiting people of color to SMU’s nursing programs. The federal government classifies East Oakland as a medically underserved area.

Foot traffic is low, but the fair is filled with liveliness. For the past 11 years, EOLA has provided food and health care to the community through events like this fair.

“Health is always a concern for us” says Laura Armstrong, EOLA’s founder and executive director. “Getting the information out to everybody and providing a local place close in the neighborhood for them to come is just something that we do. It’s all about the community.” Continue reading

Code Black: Young Doctors Still in Love with Medicine

Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary "Code Black."

Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary “Code Black.”

Don’t eat a sandwich before you sit down to watch the documentary “Code Black.” In one of the first scenes, we watch a team of doctors and nurses cut into a patient. It’s a bloody business, and the camera doesn’t turn away. That’s because this film is about the brilliant chaos of emergency care, and the people drawn to this work.

For all the debate over health care in America, it’s relatively rare to hear from doctors on the front lines, and even more rare to hear from young doctors about a field they’ve recently chosen to devote their lives to. “Code Black,” a documentary by a doctor when he was a resident at LA County’s USC Medical Center, delivers that perspective with punch and passion. It promises a look into “America’s busiest ER.” Continue reading

Bay Area Groups Struggle to Enroll Filipinos in Covered California

Filipino Youth Coalition presents information about Covered California in an event at the Milpitas Library. (Vanessa Ochavillo/Peninsula Press)

Filipino Youth Coalition presents information about Covered California in an event at the Milpitas Library. (Vanessa Ochavillo/Peninsula Press)

By Vanessa Ochavillo, Peninsula Press

Filipino health advocates in the Bay Area are working overtime to educate the community about the Affordable Care Act and to enroll as many people as possible in California’s health insurance online marketplace before the Dec. 15 deadline.

The rollout of the state’s new exchange was accompanied by an ambitious outreach program that awarded grants to community organizations that would use their “trusted relationships” to get target populations enrolled.

“We get so many calls to make presentations, and we can only do so much. The resources are so limited.”

But a lack of adequate funding and manpower has made it difficult to educate eligible, uninsured Filipinos about Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The problems in the Filipino community — the largest Asian minority in California — come as uninsured Americans across the country struggle to enroll in a plan because of widespread technical problems with the federally-run HealthCare.gov website. California residents can sign up for a plan via a separate website run by Covered California which has encountered some glitches but not on the scale that the federal website has seen. Continue reading

Low-Income Californians Want To Be Engaged Patients, Too

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Only about one in four low-income Californians say they have easily comprehensible information for health decision-making, and 71 percent say they would like more. That’s just one of the findings from a new statewide survey looking at “opportunities and challenges” in reaching this underserved population.

The report is the latest in a series from the Blue Shield of California Foundation and provides “important insights for those working to reshape the system in California and for the rest of the country,” foundation executive director Peter Long said at a briefing and panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

When asked about their top source of health information, media sources (TV, internet, printed material) nudged out medical professionals, 39 percent to 38 percent. However, reliance on a medical provider for information goes up — by 22 percent — if the patient usually sees the same person.

From the report: Continue reading

A Health Training Program Everyone Likes But…

By Richard Kipling, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

(Flickr: Alec Couros)

(Flickr: Alec Couros)

The past couple years, we’ve witnessed a seeming contradiction in state health policy.

On the one hand, we’ve had an unending march of state health programs to the budgetary cutting block, victims of California’s impoverished financial condition; on the other, that same state government has busily prepared for the Affordable Care Act, set to hit ground in January 2014.

While glancing at data on the website of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (better known as OSHPD), I thought I’d found a program that was another example of California preparing for reform and decided to dig deeper.

Its moniker, Cal-SEARCH, stands for Student/Resident Experiences and Rotations in Community Health. Its description reads like a perfect fit for this health-reform, getting-health-providers-to-underserved-communities world we’ve entered.

Cal-SEARCH, its literature says, “will provide funded training opportunities for health professional students and residents statewide” who are enrolled in one of 15 programs ranging from primary care residencies to clinical psychology to clinical social work. Those who qualify “will serve a 4-8 week, 80-hour minimum, clinical rotation in CCHCs (community clinics and health centers) and complete a community project.” Continue reading