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Alameda County Hosts National Initiative to Reduce Health Disparities
Date:7/23/2008

OAKLAND, Calif., July 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Alameda County Place Matters Team will host a three-day meeting July 24-26 at the Oakland Marriott to address the social conditions that lead to poor health outcomes in individuals from low-income and communities of color. Over 100 representatives from 24 U.S. cities and counties will attend. Place Matters is a national initiative of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies' Health Policy Institute and is funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Oakland Mayor Ronald V. Dellums leads the list of speakers that includes Alameda County Health Director Dr. Anthony Iton; Webster Guillory, co-chair of the National Policy Alliance, whose member organizations represent the more than 10,000 black elected officials in the U.S.; and Juliet Ellis, executive director of the environmental justice organization Urban Habitat, who will give the opening luncheon speech on Wednesday.

Place Matters takes an approach that crosses disciplines in problem solving. Teams, comprised of business, public and private sector leaders, are exposed not only to experts in community health and public health but also others in economic development, transportation, affordable housing, public policy and smart growth. Place Matters has 16 teams across the United States that are engaged in forming partnerships with major stakeholders in a variety of fields to make systemic changes that can lead to improved health status in their communities.

The Alameda County Place Matters Team developed a strategy for improving the social conditions that contribute to health inequities in Oakland. They develop, support and implement policies in six areas that foster better health outcomes -- economic development, education, housing, land use, transportation and incarceration. They continually focus on closing the 10-year life expectancy gap between residents of the Oakland flats and the Oakland Hills. Another goal is forming partnerships with community-based organizations that help train and equip local citizens to tackle the health inequities that affect them.

Improving health status by tackling broad social problems such as a lack of affordable housing, inadequate schools, violence and anemic economic development combines social and medical theory. Place Matters is moving theory into practice by equipping communities with the tools to change the social conditions that impact health outcomes.

"There are hot spots of death where life expectancy is literally on the order of a decade shorter than other parts of the county. That's pretty astounding. That's 10 years of life lost due to social conditions," said Anthony Iton, a strong supporter of Alameda's Place Matters initiative.

"Inequitable social conditions contribute to health inequities," said Ralph B. Everett, President and CEO of the Joint Center.

A hallmark of the Place Matters Initiative is the collaboration and networking among team members both to provide a support system and to disseminate best practices. The Oakland meeting will continue this tradition.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation's premier research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses exclusively on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. For more information, go to http://www.jointcenter.org

The Place Matters initiative is supported by a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. http://www.wkkf.org

The mission of the Alameda County Health Department is to work in partnership with the community to ensure the optimal health and well being of all people http://www.acphd.org


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SOURCE Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
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