We have long known that communities with higher rates of poverty and unsafe school conditions face sizeable barriers to leading healthy, successful lives. To provide data that illustrates the intersection between our surroundings and our health, we developed a new series of fact sheets, Spotlight on Children’s Health.
We analyzed data from the nine California counties with the highest numbers of communities of color — Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Santa Clara — to better understand how living with higher rates of poverty and unsafe school conditions may impact children’s health and academic achievement. Not surprisingly, we found that children in low-income areas, particularly in communities of color, experience higher drop-out rates and are more likely to be overweight or obese.
The fact sheets include policy recommendations that focus on issues such as reducing violence, improving access to healthy foods, and enhancing mental health services in schools. For example, since students of color are often more likely to experience depression-related feelings, we recommend that schools develop a comprehensive system of mental health services, including antibullying efforts, stigma reduction programs, and training for staff and teachers.
Ellen Wu is Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. In 2012, CPEHN is celebrating 20 years as a champion for health equity.