Berkeley’s Black residents and other people of color are at greater risk than white people are to experience “wide variety of adverse health conditions,” according to City Health Officer Lisa Hernandez, who presented the 2018 Health Status Report to the community Sept. 27.
The 2018 Health Status Report, produced by the city’s Public Health Division, provides data and trends for various demographic groups. The last Health Status Report was released in 2013. It serves to understand health disparities, monitor health concerns and guide the community in taking action.
According to the report, the Berkeley population has increased overall, but the Black population has decreased. White families have the highest median family income while Black families earn 28 cents to every dollar a white family earns.
Inequalities for people of color — and Black people in particular — stem from current and historical injustices, according to Hernandez, who cited real estate agencies discouraging nonwhite buyers and causing housing segregation for decades.
“The data is very disturbing, it continues to show a worrisome trend for the Black community,” said Vicki Alexander, the founder of Healthy Black Families.
The report also showed positive trends such as reductions in low infant birth weights, substance use among high schoolers and hospitalizations due to childhood asthma. On the other hand, it pointed to an increase in hypertension hospitalization and an “all-time high” of sexually transmitted infections in the city.
Community members present at the meeting included representatives from local health groups such as Friends of Adeline, Heart 2 Heart and Healthy Black Families. Also present were Berkeley junior Kajol Gupta and ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay.
According to the report, socioeconomic and environmental determinants have the biggest impacts on health, and thus policy-related solutions are emerging as the preferred public health practice. Hernandez suggested that improvements in local health and reductions in inequalities could be achieved through community building, civic engagement, policy advocacy and strategic partnerships with institutions.
“The disparities are not unique to Berkeley,” said Janice Chin, manager of the Public Health Division. “We do need a community response to the issues covered today.”
According to Alexander, the improvements over the past few years were due to the successes of community efforts of local health programs.
Several community members proposed future adjustments to the health report. Andy Katz, local attorney and former 15th Assembly District candidate, suggested that the Public Health Division includes statistics on immigrant welfare and LGBTQ+ communities. Donald Goldmacher, a local psychiatrist, also supported looking into Berkeley’s growing Asian population.
Ayanna Davis, the Healthy Black Families director of programs, also encouraged the commission to work more closely with city representatives.
“We know this isn’t a quick fix, but maybe my grandchildren will be able to live well in Berkeley,” Davis said.