As a parent, you realize just how challenging it is to raise a healthy, happy, and thriving child even with plenty of support and resources to draw upon. Then imagine how difficult it must be for families who live in distressed conditions and communities.
I had a difficult conversation with my (now) eight-year-old daughter about this. Struggling to look her in the eyes I tried to explain how, in this country and in this day and age, some children just don’t have as much as she does. As she looked at me sadly, I told her that these kids were simply born in the wrong ZIP Code, in neighborhoods that don’t have parks to play in or a safe school, and that their parents are challenged to buy and prepare healthy food for dinner or have time to read to and tuck them in at night.
I still can’t shake the feeling that we are somehow failing our kids by asking them to accept this unspeakable inequity as the status quo.
At Advancement Project we believe that communities should be healthy, and the people in them should be able to live healthy lives. Yet even when low-income people of color try to “follow the rules” for a healthy life, conditions in their neighborhood and a lack of health services make it nearly impossible to take care of themselves and their families. The result? People’s lives are in jeopardy or significantly shortened; children don’t grow up in healthy environments; and families are unable to make healthy decisions about food, exercise, or medical care.
Their shot at achieving the American Dream is denied because you can’t work when you’re sick; you can’t learn when you’re malnourished; and you can’t contribute to society when you are struggling to survive. The culture of simply hanging on that develops in low-income communities of color devastates the future for these families, for multiple generations.
It’s exciting to announce that Advancement Project is launching the Health Equity program to focus our research and policy expertise to promote health equity, with the goal that… “In the future California’s low-income communities of color will have what they need so that their neighborhoods, schools, and health services support and enable healthy choices.” In partnership with community allies we identify and frame community needs, build community power, and advocate for policy solutions to make real and immediate change.
Led by Director of Health Equity, Megan McClaire, our expert staff will focus their attention for the remainder of 2016 in two areas we believe are ripe for change: “Access to Health Care for All Californians” and “Equitable Access to Public Transportation in L.A. County”.
The truth is that we ALL lose out when large segments of our people are unable to meet their fullest potential because of health inequity. The mother who works in a dirty, polluted sweatshop can’t even afford the clothes she is making. The man with kidney disease who wastes hours taking three buses to the clinic each week might have spent that time in community college. And the child who can’t keep up in school because of his untreated asthma might have become President.
We are looking forward to working with each of you to advance the health of low-income communities of color throughout California.