New York Times Looks at Health Problems in Inner-City Los Angeles 10 Years After Riots
Ten years after the Los Angeles riots, the city's South-Central section and surrounding areas have "some of the most widespread and chronic health problems in [Los Angeles County], and [they are] facing these concerns as the ... County Health Department is preparing to reduce its budget sharply and possibly lay off staff members," the New York Times reports. Marking the anniversary of the riots this week, community leaders have highlighted the region's economic progress since 1992. But that emphasis, the Times reports, belies the health challenges that South-Central and surrounding areas face. Among those challenges:
- 47.4% of adults in the area lack health insurance, as do 28% of children, according to 1999 data. The rate of uninsured adults is the highest in L.A. County, "which itself has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the United States, more than double the national average."
- The area has the county's highest rate -- 17% -- of mothers who give birth without prenatal care and the "lowest level of adults who get what experts regard as minimal levels of exercise."
- The area has the highest number of deaths due to diabetes, lung cancer and heart disease in the county, as well as the highest poverty rate, 37%.
- The area's "largely Latino immigrant population is unable to find care for minor illnesses," the Times reports.
"I've been working on the health issues in this area for a long time, and I can tell you the issues have been getting worse for 10 years," Loretta Jones, the executive director of Healthy African-American Families, a not-for-profit health care advocacy organization, said.
Hoping to tackle these problems, several years ago the county health department divided the county into eight districts, with each section collaborating with grass-roots organizations in its respective community. That approach, according to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's director of public health, has helped shift the department's focus more toward preventive medicine. But further progress is threatened by the county's budget problems, he said. The department is projected to have a $344 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2004 and a $688 million gap the following year (Sterngold, New York Times, 5/3). Health officials said earlier this week that they plan to recommend converting two of the system's hospitals into clinics and laying off thousands of employees to reduce the deficit. That announcement followed a March decision to close four public health clinics (California Healthline, 5/2).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.