OPINION – African Americans, along with other communities of color in Sacramento, experience poorer health from birth to death, as seen in higher infant mortality, higher rates of disease and disability, and shortened life expectancy relative to state and national averages. These health inequities take an enormous human and economic toll on the African American community in Sacramento and have important consequences for all Sacramentans.

Some of the disproportionate poor health and chronic disease is related to inadequate access to health care and inequitable treatment in health care systems. Unhealthy or unsafe conditions in which people live, work and play are also causal factors in the health disparities in the African American community.

There is a promising new effort under way to improve our residents’ health by addressing the root issues of these disparities in health — the Healthy Sacramento Coalition.

In 2011, Sierra Health Foundation received one of 61 national Community Transformation Grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish the Healthy Sacramento Coalition, a pioneering program of the foundation. Since then, the Healthy Sacramento Coalition has grown to include more than 40 organizations that are working together to reduce chronic disease and improve health for all Sacramento County residents.

The Healthy Sacramento Coalition’s mission is to ignite and sustain a health equity movement that improves health in the Sacramento neighborhoods experiencing the highest level of chronic disease, focused on these zip codes: 95660, 95673, 95815, 95821, 95838, 95841, 95817, 95820, 95822, 95823, 95824, 95828, 95832, 95811 and 95814.

The coalition’s approach to improving health involves identifying the complex underlying causes of health disparities and defining specific strategies to address them. The coalition’s efforts will support strategies that address the leading causes of chronic disease, such as tobacco use, obesity and poor nutrition. Prevention of disease is a cornerstone of the coalition’s work.

The coalition’s efforts eventually will lead to specific, measurable health outcomes that:

• Reduce chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes;

• Prevent the development of secondary conditions (for example, reducing diabetes prevents the development of heart disease);

• Address health disparities; and

• Develop a stronger evidence base for community-level prevention efforts.

All activities supported by the coalition will either achieve or build Sacramento’s capacity to achieve broad-based prevention activities. In short, the work of the coalition is designed to accelerate progress beyond listing and analyzing a long list of problems. Rather, they are directed toward collective strategies that will produce real change, and lead to new opportunities to improve health that will directly benefit the African American community.
Robert Phillips

Robert Phillips is the Director of Health Programs at Sierra Health Foundation, where he leads the foundation’s Health Unit and programs including the Healthy Sacramento Coalition, the Respite Partnership Collaborative and the Sacramento Region Health Care Partnership.

Sierra Health Foundation is sponsoring The Empowerment series to help improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities in the region through education and awareness. Sierra Health Foundation is a private philanthropy with a mission to invest in and serve as a catalyst for ideas, partnerships and programs that improve health and quality of life in Northern California.