California is known for its great weather, beautiful scenery, and diverse communities. It also ranks a favorable 17 in overall health in the United Health Foundation’s 2014 America’s Health Rankings. The state’s low prevalence of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity contribute to this ranking. But a closer look reveals health disparities that paint a different picture.
Compared to statewide indicators, the Coachella Valley in Southern California suffers from disproportionately poor health outcomes. According to the Health Assessment Resource Center, in the Coachella Valley, close to 40 percent of children are overweight or obese, the binge drinking prevalence is significantly higher than the statewide average, and in 2013, more than 30 percent of adults did not have health insurance.
To help address these challenges and eliminate health disparities, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative has developed a blueprint that outlines targeted steps to be taken at various levels. In line with the steps outlined, the UC Riverside School of Medicine will be launching its Family Medicine Residency program in Palm Springs, CA this summer in partnership with CHMI.
CHMI has recognized the value of partnering with educational institutions in order to create sustainable, lasting change in the Coachella Valley. Often times medical students graduate from schools in Southern California and do their residencies elsewhere, creating a shortage of physicians in the area. This newly accredited residency program, which is a key component of the School’s strategy to expand and diversify the physician workforce in the Inland Southern California, is important for improving the health of the community as physician shortages are as high as 1 to every 9,000 residents. Not only will this effort increase access to preventative care, but it will also ensure that the quality of care is most effective with the local population by training residents to become leaders in a culturally diverse and underserved area. As a community-based program, residents will take part in a number of community projects to better understand the population they are treating and the local barriers to care, while working to create permanent health and wellness improvements.
Many of those who will participate in this program have a deep personal connection to their community, and will be able to use their education to make a meaningful impact. Teresa Khoo, an incoming participant, went to college and completed her first two years of medical school at UCR. She has participated in programs like Student Run Health Clinic and Health Science Partnership, which helped her to understand the healthcare disparities her community faces. “I am very passionate about community outreach and education, and it is something that I definitely intend on continuing throughout my residency training,” she says. “I care about the people of Inland Southern California, and look forward to advocating for their healthcare needs under the tutorship of a dedicated group of physicians.”
The Family Medicine Residency program is just one example of how our great partners are stepping up to meet local needs. Together, we can continue take high-impact, targeted action until everyone has an equal chance to live a happy, healthy life.