More than 640 Pro-Kid organizations across California fought for equity in children’s health

Last week, more than 640 Pro-Kid organizations across California signed on to this letter urging Governor Newsom to sign EnRICH CA (SB 682 (Rubio)) into law.

The End Racial Inequities in Children’s Health Initiative (EnRICH CA, SB 682) would have required the California Health and Human Services Agency to develop a plan to reduce racial disparities in five childhood chronic diseases by 2030, in an effort to improve health outcomes for all kids in California, and ultimately, help create a generation of healthier adults from the start.

Governor Newsom vetoed SB 682 on October 4. In his veto message, the Governor said that his “Administration is strongly supportive of closing the health disparity gap among youth and agrees with the intent of this bill. California must set measurable goals and take meaningful action to reduce disparities in chronic conditions affecting children of color.” We will continue to work with the Newsom Administration and Senator Rubio to ensure we take meaningful steps to reduce racial disparities and improve health outcomes for all California kids.

Dear Governor Newsom,

The undersigned organizations urge you to sign SB 682 (Rubio) to ensure that California develops and implements a concrete plan to reduce racial disparities in childhood chronic disease. Approximately 25% of all children experience chronic health conditions—those conditions that last more than 12 months, are severe enough to create limits in everyday life, and reduce productivity in adulthood. Unfortunately, the burdens of childhood chronic illnesses fall hardest on families of color, and children of color in California are more likely to suffer and die from preventable or manageable chronic illnesses. For example, asthma and diabetes are by far deadlier for Black children than for white children, and Black children are 40 percent more likely to have asthma, five times more likely to be hospitalized, and three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than their white counterparts. Five major chronic diseases affecting children in California with known racial disparities include: pediatric asthma, childhood diabetes, youth depression, childhood dental caries, and vaping- related diseases.

Although the State has signaled that health equity is a priority, there has been insufficient focus, measurable progress, and investment to specifically address racial inequities in the health outcomes of children. The State’s efforts, previous and proposed, have been broadly classified under the umbrella of “health equity” leaving room for those efforts to focus on less sensitive topics, such as income level or housing, rather than addressing race directly. Additionally, the State’s programmatic and fiscal priorities encompass all age ranges, lacking a specific focus on children. However, 1 in 4 children suffer from chronic health conditions, many of which are preventable, and the burden of those conditions overwhelmingly falls on the shoulders of children and families of color. California has a responsibility to focus efforts explicitly on the needs of children and youth of color. The upward trend in childhood chronic disease in California is threatening the health of the next generation and not enough has been done to invest in prevention to help stop the increasingly high rates of chronic disease in children of color. These chronic illnesses are robbing our children of their well-being and the ability to thrive.

SB 682 seeks to ensure children are a priority in the State’s policy efforts now with the explicit goal of creating a generation of healthier adults from the start rather than continuing to apply band-aids to fundamental problems. SB 682 would require the California Health & Human Services Agency (CHHS) and its Departments to identify performance measures with racial disparities, set reduction targets from baseline data, and then establish formal and strategic partnerships to meet those targets, while holding the State accountable. SB 682 would require that CHHS submit to the Legislature a plan for how CHHS and sister agencies will achieve the racial/ethnic disparities reduction targets and provide biannual reports on the progress being made towards closing those gaps.

It’s time for California to act. Now more than ever, it is critical that California invests in the articulation and execution of a long-term vision to eliminate racial disparities in childhood chronic conditions. We urge you to sign SB 682, embarking California on a proactive approach towards ensuring the health and wellness of children and ultimately, the adults that those children will become.

The Undersigned Organizations