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January 27, 2006

Julio Marcial, TCWF
(818) 702-1900

The California Wellness Foundation Launches $1 Million Campaign To Increase Diversity of Health Care Workforce

Public Education Campaign Seeks to Increase Access to Health Care in Underserved Communities and Prepare Californians for Careers in the Health Professions

Woodland Hills (CA) — The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) announced a $1 million grant to Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to implement a public education campaign promoting the benefits of increasing ethnic diversity in the California healthcare workforce. TCWF's Board of Directors approved the grant to Ogilvy Public Relations in December 2005.

"When we think of a diverse health workforce, we think of providers who bring an understanding of cultural health beliefs, and methods that respect those beliefs, into the health care system," said Gary Yates, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation. "A significant body of research indicates that a workforce that more closely mirrors the racial and ethnic diversity of our state will increase access to care and improve the quality of care that is delivered.

"We also know that physicians of color typically provide more care for the poor and uninsured, more frequently choosing to practice in areas with shortages of providers than their non-minority peers," Yates said. "Building a more diverse community of health professionals is a crucial strategy for improving the health of underserved communities in California."

Current data show that California's health care workforce does not reflect the diversity of the state's population. For example, although Latinos represent 32 percent of the state's population, they represent only four percent of the state's doctors and registered nurses, and six percent of dentists and nurse practitioners. The picture is similar for African-Americans and for a number of Asian and Pacific Islander groups.

Recently, national attention has been focused on the need for a diverse health workforce, with groundbreaking reports published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and The Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce. Efforts to advance the reports' policy agendas are led by the recently established Sullivan Alliance to Transform America's Health Professions, an organization of recognized scholars and grassroots policy advocates.

"The Sullivan Alliance offers a blueprint for increasing diversity in the health workforce, including improvements in the quality of education options available for students of color, ways of addressing the challenges of financing a postsecondary education, and recommendations for mentoring and support programs at under- and post-graduate institutions," said Saba Brelvi, TCWF program director.

"California faces shortages of workers in many health care occupations even as the state's population continues to grow and become more ethnically diverse," Brelvi said. "Now is the time for us to provide young people in California with the information and resources they need to pursue careers in the health professions. If we are successful with this approach, the result will be an ethnically diverse workforce that provides accessible, culturally competent, high-quality healthcare that all Californians want."

The $1 million grant from TCWF will enable Ogilvy Public Relations to:

  • Produce and disseminate a report on the current state of diversity in the health care workforce, in collaboration with Field Research Corp.;
  • Raise public awareness of the issue with ads on cable television and radio stations, beginning in three key markets: Los Angeles/Inland Empire, the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento;
  • Inaugurate a public relations campaign for policymakers and opinion leaders, based on policy recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, The Sullivan Commission and key stakeholders across California; and
  • Launch a "one-stop shopping" website that will provide comprehensive information (e.g., career paths, training opportunities by geographic location, scholarships and loans, grants, other financial aid and employment opportunities) about health careers in California.

The campaign is one component of a comprehensive approach the Foundation uses to increase workforce diversity. Since 2002, the Foundation has awarded 101 grants totaling more than $15 million to organizations that provide: pipeline programs, scholarships, outreach and retention programs; internships and fellowships; and loan repayment programs for ethnic minorities who are underrepresented in the health professions.

Moreover, the Foundation presents its annual Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award to recognize individuals who have, over the course of their careers, made significant strides towards diversifying California's health workforce. Three champions are selected each year through a confidential nomination and selection process. They are honored at a dinner and reception, and provided with a cash award of $25,000. Since the inception of the champions award in 2003, nine Californians have been recognized.

The California Wellness Foundation is a private, independent foundation created in 1992, with the mission of improving the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women's health, and work and health. TCWF also responds to timely issues or special projects outside the funding priorities. Since 1992, TCWF has awarded 4,209 grants totaling more than $506 million.

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