Beyond Health Care Coverage: Major Policy Forum to Address Inequality and Health Disparities in America

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Contact: Amy Saltzman, 301-656-0348

(Cell) 202-669-8494

Beyond Health Care Coverage: Major Policy Forum to Address Inequality and Health Disparities in America


Policy Forum examining social and economic factors that influence health and the role these issues should play in the health care reform debate


Monday, February 23, 2009, 9:15 a.m. — 12:30 p.m.


The Commonwealth Club

595 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

San Francisco, CA–With the arrival of a new president and Congress, the next few years could bring significant changes to the country۪s health care system. But research has shown that poverty affects a person۪s health and well-being in ways that go beyond health care coverage. What policies can lawmakers implement to effectively address the social and economic factors that influence health? How will investments in disease prevention and good health help the economy?

Government officials, researchers and other key experts came together to address these critical issues at a February 23 forum at the Commonwealth Club. The event was jointly sponsored bythe California Endowment,the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, andSpotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

Panelists at the forum included:

·Judith Bell, president, PolicyLink, and co-author of the reportWhy Place Matters: Building a Movement for Healthy Communities.

·Paula Braveman, professor of family and community medicine; director, Center on Social Disparities in Health, University of California, San Francisco; and co-author of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report,Overcoming Obstacles to Health.

·David Grusky, professor of sociology and director, Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. He is also a senior editor of the Center۪sPathwaysmagazine, which in its current issue explores options for creating a more equitable health care system that focuses on illness prevention as well as coverage.

·Anthony Iton, director and health officer, Alameda County Public Health Department, and author ofLife and Death from Unnatural Causes: Health and Social Inequity in Alameda County.

·Dave Jones, California State Assemblyman, District 9, and chair, Assembly Committee on Health.

·Jeffrey Levi, executive director, Trust for America۪s Health, and an author ofPrevention for a Healthier America: Investmentsin Disease Prevention Yield Significant Savings, Stronger Communities.

·Barbara Masters, public policy director, The California Endowment.

·Robert Moffit, director, Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation and author ofEmpowering Individuals in the Health Care Systemin the current issue ofPathwaysmagazine.

The forum examined how policymakers and advocates can broaden the discussion on inequality and health to include the socioeconomic factors that influence health. Speakers discussed both state and federal actions that can be taken to confront health disparities, including an analysis of how the economic recovery package will provide new opportunities for creating healthier communities and helping low-income households move out of the cycle of poverty and poor health.

“The health care debate to date has focused almost exclusively on access to insurance and has ignored the many other ways in which health inequalities are generated and may be redressed,” said David Grusky, professor of sociology and director of the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. Beyond lack of health coverage, factors that contribute to poor health include insecure and low-paying jobs, poor finances, lack of access to nutritious food, poor child care and violent and poorly-maintained living conditions.

Recent research has highlighted the importance of focusing on these social determinants of health as the country seeks to reform its health care system and boost the economy. A study by Trust for America۪s Health found that a $10 per person investment in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years. That is a return of $5.60 for every $1 spent. In California it would result in a potential annual savings of $1.7 billion.

Policymakers are also beginning to acknowledge the need for a broader focus on prevention as part of health care reform efforts. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in November unveiled a blueprint for comprehensive health care reform that includes several proposals aimed at making disease prevention “a cornerstone of the health care system rather than an afterthought.” The paper cited a “lack of adequate housing, living wages, appropriate education, and clean environments” as factors that adversely affect health, and called on federal agencies to work together to “improve the health and well-being of our communities.”

For more information on the event or to arrange interviews with speakers please contact Amy Saltzman; 301-656-0348.


The California Endowmentis a private, statewide health foundation that was created in 1996 as a result of Blue Cross of California’s creation of WellPoint Health Networks, a for-profit corporation. The mission of the California Endowment is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequalityis committed to research, training and policy analysis of poverty and inequality. The center has four objectives: to monitor trends in poverty and inequality, to develop science-based policy on poverty and inequality, to disseminate data and research on poverty and inequality, and to train thenext generation of scholars, policy analysts and politicians.

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunityis a foundation-led, non-partisan initiative aimed at ensuring that political leaders take significant actions to reduce poverty and increase opportunity in the United States. Spotlight brings together diverse perspectives from the political, policy, advocacy and foundation communities to engage in an ongoing dialogue focused on finding genuine solutions to the economic hardship confronting millions of

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