Health and Social Disparities in Alameda County*
- In areas with the lowest poverty rate (7 percent), 49 percent of the population is nonwhite and 90 percent complete high school.
- In areas with the highest poverty rate (25 percent), 89 percent of the population is nonwhite and only 65 percent complete high school.
- Life expectancy in the poorest areas is less than 74.3 years.
- Life expectancy in the wealthiest areas is more than 80 years.
- Among 11th-graders in Oakland Unified School District, 62 percent of African American students and 60 percent of Latino students have “below basic” reading levels. Among white students, only 17 percent score “below basic.”
- In 2002, African American households had a median net worth of $5,988; white households had a median net worth of $88,651.
Rather than being depressed by the findings, Iton sees them as a call to action. “The data make it very clear that the root causes of a number of problems facing our community are the same,” he said in a phone interview. “When we recognize that, it galvanizes people to act.” Iton has experience tackling tough challenges. He came to Alameda County after having served as director of health and social services of Stamford, Connecticut, where he developed the local protocol for prophylaxis of postal workers after exposure to anthrax spores. His résumé also includes stints as an HIV disability rights attorney, a health care policy analyst, and a physician and advocate for San Francisco’s homeless population. Since the release of Iton’s report last spring, responses from Alameda County government agencies and advocacy groups have been huge, he said. The public health department is already working with various city planning departments and other organizations to design healthier neighborhoods, he said. Iton said he thinks that local-level changes will ultimately spark change at the state and federal levels. “Most good public health policies tend to trickle up, not down,” he said. “It takes institutions like UCSF taking responsibility for their communities.” For its part, UCSF has made serving its community a top priority over the next decade. The UCSF Strategic Plan calls on the University to “be a force to eliminate the pervasive disparities in health and health care in the local and national environment that are based on race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other social vulnerabilities.” UCSF created the University Community Partnerships Program in 2006 to empower the community to partner with the University and vice versa. The program is directed by the 20-member UCSF University Community Partnerships Council, a group of passionate public service advocates consisting of 10 UCSF representatives and 10 members of the community. Iton’s Jan. 22 talk at UCSF was sponsored by the Chancellor’s Diversity Celebration Committee and co-sponsored by the MLK Commemoration Planning Committee and the UCSF Staff Council.
UCSF to Celebrate Martin Luther King’s Vision with Awards, Events
UCSF Diversity Website, Jan. 20, 2009