Archived: Letter to the Editor: County Health Leaves Out East LA’s Younger Population


In your article “H1NI Puts Hospitals on Defense” (October 22, 2009), the author states, “health care providers are busy putting together strategies to help them deal with the growing number of H1NI (swine flu) cases.” Then it describes how various medical facilities throughout the country are taking steps to restrict visitor access or isolate patients with flu-like symptoms, all in the name of curtailing the spread of this modern pandemic, which seems to have a penchant for afflicting children and young adults. In fact, the California Department of Public Health is reporting, “To date, there have been more than 3,500 H1N1-related hospitalizations, and 233 deaths. Although H1N1 is causing more severe illness in young children, persons with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women, and healthy persons can also have serious illness.”

Zooming in closer to home, I couldn’t help but think of that famous (but now modified) quote from that movie about the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission, “East Los Angeles, we have a problem …”

You see, recently, I had been chatting with some neighbors, fellow residents of ELA, and casually asked them if they were planning on getting the swine flu vaccine. One, a pregnant young lady, said “no” because she’d heard it (the vaccine) had been “made up in a hurry” and was really untested in humans. The other, an elderly gentleman of eighty, likewise said “no” because he heard it was a fiendish ploy to get rid of seniors!
Being a resident of ELA for most of my life, from childhood to graduate school to professional career, I’ve come to know my community quite well. It disheartens me deeply to hear of such misinformation being rampant in our community when it comes to being informed about health issues like the swine flu.

The fact that ELA seems to historically get short-changed in many aspects of community health doesn’t bode well for the future wellbeing of our community. If we remain uninformed or silent about those key social determinants of health that may affect the quality and quantity of life for us, then by what right can we claim this community to be our home? Let’s not get left behind!
For example, the county public health is reporting that it “will host free H1N1 vaccination clinics targeted to county residents in the priority groups who do not have a primary health care provider or cannot afford to purchase the vaccine…” Now “priority groups” includes people through 24 years of age. Oddly, I was dismayed to learn that, as yet, there are no county, public health H1N1 vaccination clinics schedule in the unincorporated “90022” or “90063”area of ELA. In contrast, Monterey Park, an adjacent incorporated city, has two dates already scheduled. ELA has roughly twice the population density of Monterey Park and twice the poverty rate! On top of that, the median age in ELA is about 26 years while that of Monterey Park is 38 years, so ELA has a much younger population. Go figure?

Another example of our community health being short-changed, you ask? Well, back in February 2009 the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC, a small non-profit) came to us asking for stakeholder input in carrying out a “community health assessment” of both Boyle Heights (incorporated) and East Los Angeles (unincorporated). This study was meant to develop community profiles with the intent of influencing changes in policy pertaining to “indicators” of a healthy community, e.g., air quality, health services, the built environment, etc. Great, we thought. However, when the CA Endowment (a much bigger non-profit) selected Boyle Heights in July 2009 as one of its 10-year “Building Healthy Communities” sites, effectively trumping out others, ABC quietly back-peddled its way out of ELA, which was left with no health assessment. Shame on them!

So it goes in ELA. Left behind and nowhere to go … up, maybe?

Cesar J. Salgado is a resident of East Los Angeles.

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