Health Disparities Among California Elderly Exist Along Economic, Racial Lines, Report Finds
About 70% of California residents ages 65 and older report their health status as "good," "very good" or "excellent," but Latinos and people with limited English-language skills report more health problems and less access to care than other seniors, according to a study released Monday by the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research, the Los Angeles Times reports (Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 10/28). Researchers drew data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey and the 2000 U.S. Census. Researchers conducted phone interviews with 10,000 randomly selected elderly people in six languages from November 2000 to September 2001 and asked respondents about topics including asthma, cancer screening, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, prescription drug use, smoking and alcohol consumption (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 10/28). Every county in the state was represented in the survey (English, Contra Costa Times, 10/28). The study found that:
The report did not cite causes of racial and economic disparities in seniors' health status (Contra Costa Times, 10/28). The report, titled "The Health of Older Californians," was commissioned by the California Endowment and received funding from the Archstone Foundation (Los Angeles Times, 10/28).
Steven Wallace, the study's lead author and associate director of the health policy center, said, "More attention needs to be paid to Latino elderly and limited-English elderly because those are the two population groups across all counties that have the worst health and access to care" (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 10/28). Dr. Sandra Moody-Ayers, a geriatric-medicine specialist at the University of California-San Francisco and director of palliative care at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said that public health officials should focus on "what's driving these differences in order ... to understand what interventions we need." According to the Mercury News, the study is "likely to spur debate about how best to improve care for the state's seniors" (San Jose Mercury News, 10/28). The report is available online.
In related news, advocates for elderly California residents, fearing that the "unprecedented state budget crisis" will jeopardize funding for health services, are focusing efforts on dental care for residents of long-term care facilities, the Sacramento Bee reports. The California Commission on Aging has created a task force to improve dental care for elderly and disabled residents in long-term care facilities. Ray Mastalish, executive director of the commission, said that the group targeted dental care because many residents are unable to brush their teeth without assistance and must pay out-of-pocket for dental care, which is rarely covered under Medicare (Weaver Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 10/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.