Elaiza Gene Torralba

Writer specializing in health communications | Reporter | Public health advocate

Mental health needs might not be met among California’s Latino and Asian communities

A pair of new UCLA studies suggest that mental health needs for some ethnic communities may be going unmet in part because people in those groups don’t see themselves as needing care — despite the fact that they are reporting in surveys that they are experiencing symptoms of mental health distress. The studies, by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, are based on data from the center’s own California Health Interview Surveys from 2015 to 2019. As part of the surveys, researchers asked C

Report identifies barriers to accessing dental care for low-income Californians

A policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research identifies three of the most important factors that have led to disparities in Californians’ access to dental care. • None There are fewer dentists per capita in some parts of the state. • None About 79% of the state’s dentists did not provide care for low-income patients who rely on Medi-Cal. • None Only 8% of the state’s dentists are Latino or Black, compared with 60% of the state’s low-income adult population overall. The authors a

UCLA analysis reveals need to break down COVID-19 data for ethnic subgroups

According to a new UCLA report, COVID-19 death rates for Californians from Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Asian ethnic groups varied widely in 2020. But those variations were not readily apparent to the public because federal and state reports generally present COVID-19 data for all of those groups as a whole, rather than for each of the subgroups individually. The study, by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, suggests that breaking out the data for each of the racial and ethnic

UCLA report provides close look at state’s Whole Person Care pilot health program

Findings may inform models to improve health care quality and outcomes for high-need, at-risk groups California in 2016 introduced its Whole Person Care program, a pilot project designed to integrate medical, behavioral health and social services for Medi-Cal patients who frequently accessed health services, incurred disproportionately high costs and had poor health outcomes. With that program scheduled to end next year, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has published a policy brief t

Breaking down barriers to care for metastatic breast cancer patients

Drawing on a series of studies and interviews with patients and caregivers, UCLA researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have published recommendations for California policymakers and patient advocates aimed at improving care and outcomes for women with metastatic breast cancer. More than 30,000 women in California are diagnosed each year with this cancer, which has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Survival r

How immigration policies can harm health: Study sheds light on ‘public charge’ rule

Immigration policies like the Trump-era expansion of the “public charge” rule that made it harder for immigrants on public assistance to obtain legal residency can have a chilling effect on the health and well-being of immigrant communities in California, according to a study released today by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The study, based on data from the center’s 2019 California Health Interview Survey, shows that 1 in 4 low-income immigrant adults in the state have avoided acce

How public health research can shape inclusive immigration policies

President Joseph Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress have started boldly with immigration. On Feb. 18, Democrats introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which would rollback many of Donald Trump’s policies and bring comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Researchers and community advocates are recognizing a renewed opportunity to use public health research and advocacy lenses to

Study: Look beyond geography to identify smaller at-risk groups for pandemic relief

Delivering COVID-19 vaccines and other pandemic relief to certain small ethnic populations in California may be a particular challenge for a somewhat ironic reason: Many members of those groups do not live in neighborhoods that have been identified as being highly vulnerable to virus transmission. A new UCLA study looked at five ethnic groups — American Indians, Pacific Islanders, Cambodians, Filipinos and Koreans — which, current data suggests, have higher-than-average rates of COVID-19 infect

Want to improve care for breast cancer patients? Listen to what they say on Twitter

Information shared by women with metastatic breast cancer on social media platforms like Twitter may be a timely source of data for policymakers hoping to improve care and outcomes for these patients. UCLA researchers found that participants in a Twitter group chat about metastatic breast cancer identified a number of significant barriers to care, including communication gaps between health care providers and patients, delays in insurance authorizations for treatments and other procedures, insu

Nearly half of California adolescents report mental health difficulties

Mirroring a national trend, 45% of California youth between the ages of 12 and 17 report having recently struggled with mental health issues, with nearly a third of them experiencing serious psychological distress that could interfere with their academic and social functioning, according to a UCLA policy brief released today. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research study also highlights the elevated incidence of mental health distress among certain segments of the adolescent population — inc

Researchers awarded grant to study COVID-19 among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, principal investigator of the center’s California Health Interview Survey, and professor of health policy and management in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, received a $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to produce data on COVID-19 among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Under the grant, a team at the center’s Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander COVID-19 Data Policy Lab will address health e

Study shows link between economic, social, environmental factors and oral health

More than 1 in 4 adults in California report having poor oral health, but that figure rises to roughly 1 in 2 for the state’s lowest-income residents and drops to 1 in 5 for those with the highest incomes, according to a UCLA policy brief that looks at the role economic, social and environmental factors play in oral health. The research, conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, highlights significant differences in residents’ oral health across income, education, employment, imm

Report calls for easier access to data on American Indians’ and Alaska Natives’ health

A new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research points out the need for easier access to health data on the nearly 6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States. The report’s authors write that the lack of clear data and the challenges in accessing it make it difficult for researchers and policymakers to understand the health challenges faced by American Indians and Alaska Natives. The study is particularly timely because, according to the Centers fo

Whether Californians vote may hinge on race, ethnicity, health survey finds

Ballots have been rolling in ahead of Election Day, but a big question remains: How many people will ultimately vote? According to data from the latest California Health Interview Survey, or CHIS, an estimated 2.8 million eligible Californians never vote in national, state or local elections, and 7.7 million only vote sometimes — which could potentially leave more than 10 million ballots uncast. The findings on voter participation and other demographic and health-related topics are part of the

Number of Californians with mental health distress sharply increased from 2014 to 2018

From 2014 to 2018, the number of California adults who reported that they had experienced serious psychological distress in any given year increased by 42%, according to a UCLA Center for Health Policy Research policy brief published today. The finding is based on research in the California Health Interview Survey, which each year gathers data from more than 20,000 respondents. Based on the surveys, UCLA researchers project that nearly 2.2 million Californians experienced serious psychological

Are people who vote healthier than those who don’t?

A new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows that California adults who in are good health with little psychological distress are more likely to consistently vote in local, state and national elections than those with physical or psychological health issues. The brief, which uses data from the center’s 2017 and 2018 California Health Interview Survey, also provides evidence that state residents who vote tend to live in more advantaged communities than those who don’t.

Dashboard reveals COVID-19’s impact on Californians’ jobs, mental health

With more than 13,000 deaths and more than 712,000 confirmed cases in California alone, the COVID-19 pandemic has already had profound and lasting effects on the nation’s most populous state. Now, UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey has published preliminary data from its 2020 survey, shedding new light on the pandemic’s effects on employment and home life in California. The figures provide further confirmation that the state’s vulnerable groups are among those being hardest hit by the cr

Study shows large gaps in access to oral health care for poorest Californians

A new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows that low-income California adults are less likely to receive timely dental care like regular checkups and are more likely to visit the dentist for specific problems than those with higher incomes — a fact that holds true even for low-income residents who have dental insurance. The study authors found that among those adults with the lowest incomes, 59% had seen a dentist within the last year, compared with 80% for higher-i

Study shows surge in e-cigarette and marijuana use among state’s young adults

The use of marijuana and electronic cigarettes jumped dramatically among young adult Californians between 2017 and 2018, with large proportions of users of both products being underage, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The study, which highlights smoking trends among individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, shows that e-cigarette vaping surged by 48% over that period, while marijuana use increased by 19%. Cigarette smoking, which had been declining for a

Nearly 2 million California adults don’t get needed mental health care

Of the 3 million California adults who have recently experienced psychological distress and are eligible for public mental health services, 1.8 million say they have received no treatment or support, according to a policy brief released today by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The findings, the researchers say, highlight the need to expand access to the prevention and early intervention programs of the state’s Mental Health Services Act, or Proposition 63, passed in 2004 to provide
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