Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, an internationally renowned expert on mental health in ethnic populations, works to improve access to high quality health care for all Californians, especially ethnic minorities.
As founding director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Aguilar-Gaxiola said he plans to pinpoint the specific factors associated with health disparities, identify solutions, and implement and evaluate changes at the patient-provider, institutional and community-wide levels.
"We live in the most technologically advanced country in the world, and we spend more resources on health care than any other nation, yet not all citizens have equal access to quality health care," said Aguilar-Gaxiola, a UC Davis professor of internal medicine. "Many ethnic minority groups, including African Americans; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; Hispanics; and Native Americans, among others, have excess rates of disease, premature death or disability. These health disparities lead to lower life expectancy, decreased quality of life and lost productivity."
The growth of ethnic populations is magnifying the need to resolve the disparities. More than half of California residents identify themselves as non-white, and it is projected that by 2010, one of every three persons in the United States will be a member of a racial or ethnic minority group.
The Center for Reducing Health Disparities is using its multidisciplinary, collaborative structure to address health disparities through a comprehensive program of research, training, community outreach and information dissemination. Aguilar-Gaxiola and the center's associate director Jill Joseph are working to strengthen existing partnerships, and establish new ones with community groups and providers to increase access to and improve the quality of care for all individuals with unmet health needs.
"UC Davis Health System has a tremendous commitment to improving access to health care for ethnic minorities," Joseph said. "From the school's 30-year support of student-run clinics and its extensive medical interpreting program to the innovative use of telemedicine technology to reach rural populations, UC Davis has been a leader in meeting the health-care needs of the medically underserved in the region.
"We are fortunate to be able to consult with faculty and staff who have built well-established programs and developed strong relationships with community leaders," she said. "Together, we hope to raise awareness of the unique cultural and linguistic attributes of minority populations and to develop and disseminate effective approaches to other providers and stakeholders in the region to improve access for the many individuals who still need care."