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Community advocates urge new California Surgeon General to focus her work on health disparities in the Central Valley (Photo credit: Vida en el Valle)

Community Advocates Urge New California Surgeon General to Focus Her Work on Health Disparities in the Central Valley

By Maria G. Ortiz-Briones—Feb. 6, 2019

Community advocates in the Central Valley are urging the new California Surgeon General to focus her efforts on providing justice and opportunity to communities that face deeply entrenched poverty and community violence.

“As a recognized leader in the fields of trauma and health equity, we believe that Dr. Nadine Burke Harris can use this position to provide much needed leadership to address the root causes and health impacts of childhood trauma,” said Kiran Savage-Sangwan, Deputy Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

Burke Harris joined the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), the California Black Health Network, Faith in the Valley, members of The All Stars Alliance Non-Profits including Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, Little Manila Rising, San Joaquin Pride Center, Reinvent South Stockton Coalition (RSSC), and Sow-A- Seed Community Foundation as well as Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs for a community roundtable discussion on Jan. 22 at El Dorado School in Stockton.

Burke Harris, a nationally recognized expert in child development and a national leader in pediatric medicine, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 21 as the first-ever California Surgeon General to urge policymakers at every level of government and leaders across the state to consider the social determinants of health, especially for children.

As surgeon general, Burke Harris’ work will focus on combating the root causes of serious health conditions like adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress as well as to reach young families across the state.

“The importance of California’s Surgeon General beginning her work in the community of Stockton cannot be overstated,” said Savage-Sangwan, adding that Burke Harris’ position “focused on a comprehensive approach to addressing health risks and challenges, including identifying social determinants of health and persistent inequities in communities.”

For years, CPEHN has worked on The California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP), which aims to transform California’s mental health system to address the root causes of trauma and mental health.

According to Savage-Sangwan nearly a quarter of Stockton residents live in poverty in a city that experiences a violent crime rate more than three times higher than that of California as a whole.

“However, the people of Stockton are resilient and have developed model programs for responding to the most pressing issues facing their community,” said Savage-Sangwan. “CPEHN stands ready to work together to reach the vision of health and well-being for all Californians.”

Community advocates thanked Gov. Newsom for his bold vision and all look forward to work in partnership with Burke Harris, Newsom’s administration, stakeholders statewide to make a difference in their communities.

“We are excited that Stockton is her first stop on her California tour. We are well poised to do big things together for California— especially when we understand and truly address the impacts of trauma in our most vulnerable children and communities,” said Sammy Nuñez, executive director of Fathers and Families of San Joaquin.

Nunez said that Stockton has had a historic record low gun violence drop due in large part to the community’s focus on addressing toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences while also committing to addressing the social, historical, institutional trauma of the residents.

“Through our collective efforts the Stockton Trauma Recovery Center has produced healing and healing has produced results,” Nuñez said. “FFSJ’s Trauma Recovery Center along with our partners have developed a healing model that continues to grow through intergenerational and multi-ethnic leadership.”

“The passion, expertise and focus that Dr. Nadine will bring to this critical body of work will bring the necessary attention and light to propel forward our collective work to address and end disparities in our communities,” said Pastor Trena Turner, executive director, Faith in the Valley which has 120 congregations representing more than 100,000 people in Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

Read more at Vida en el Valle.

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