NEWS | May 15, 2013

UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities receives $1 million grant from Covered California


The UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities has received a $1 million grant from Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, to provide outreach and education to underserved populations about obtaining health insurance.

Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola

The primary targets of Covered California’s outreach and education efforts are the estimated 5.3 million Californians projected to be uninsured or eligible for tax credit subsidies in 2014. Later this fall, Covered California will offer the state’s residents access to health care through marketplaces established through the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Coverage will be available Jan. 1, 2014.

The center will partner with El Concilio, the Council for the Spanish speaking, in a collaboration called Nuestra Salud es Primero (Our Health Comes First), to educate nearly 133,000 primarily Spanish-speaking Central Valley residents about Covered California. The grant begins July 1 and ends in December 2014.

The Center for Reducing Health Disparities was selected as an outreach partner because of its expertise in educating diverse underserved groups about health. With its partner El Concilio, it will reach out to Latinos eligible for affordable health insurance programs through Covered California. Efforts will focus on Latinos who live in counties in the Central Valley (Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno and Kern).

Fifty-four percent of California Latinos are uninsured — one in four from birth to age 64, said Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, the center’s director and a clinical professor of internal medicine.

“I am excited about this historic opportunity to spread the word to populations that have been uninsured and without access to health-care services,” Aguilar-Gaxiola said. “We are looking forward to reaching out, engaging and educating underserved populations, and providing a bridge to their becoming insured and hopefully increasing their access to quality care and improving and maintaining their health and well-being.”

The effort will involve the extensive use of promotoras, lay community outreach workers trained to provide basic health information. In the first phase of the project, outreach workers will identify and educate potential enrollees about their insurance eligibility and options under Covered California and solicit their contact information.

They will explain health-care terminology such as co-payments, premiums and how to select the health-care plan that is best for them. They will use a variety of community-engagement tools, visiting schools, churches and community centers and colleges, reaching out with everything from social media to booths at flea markets and health fairs. In the second phase center staff will re-contact those individuals and encourage them to enroll in the marketplace.

The project manager will be Lina Méndez, a post-doctoral scholar with the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, who will ensure that information delivered to the targeted populations is culturally and linguistically appropriate.  

“We are looking forward to providing accurate messages about Covered California to the thousands of Latinos with limited English proficiency and those who may be skeptical about the services,” Méndez said.

The goal of Covered California is to increase the number of Californians with health insurance, improve the quality of health-care statewide, reduce health-care coverage costs and ensure that California's diverse population has fair and equal access to quality health care.

In addition to Aguilar-Gaxiola and Méndez, other participants include Marbella Sala, operations and program manager, Center for Reducing Health Disparities; Jose R. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer, El Concilio; Annette Sanchez, El Concilio vice president; Takumi Aikawa, operations manager, El Concilio; Maria Hernandez, post-doctoral scholar at the center; and Linda Zieghahn, center community engagement and research program manager.

The UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, in alliance with the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, provides leadership and support within and beyond UC Davis Health System to promote the health and well-being of ethnically diverse populations. The center focuses on raising awareness of the unique cultural and linguistic attributes of minority populations, developing culturally and linguistically sensitive communications for health-care professionals, and working with policymakers, administrators, practitioners, consumers and families to reduce health-care disparities and improve quality of care. Building on UC Davis' long history of outreach to the most vulnerable, underserved populations in the Sacramento region, the center raises awareness, conducts critical research and assists those communities whose needs have never been addressed or met by the traditional health-care system. The center's ultimate goal is to improve health outcomes for all. For more information, visit