As Bills Await Governor’s Signature in Sacramento, Health and Equity Must Come First

The end of the California legislative session brings intense speculation about which laws the governor will sign and which he will veto. In the session’s final days, legislators sent Gov. Jerry Brown some 400 bills, which he must sign or veto by Oct. 13.

Many of the bills Brown is considering – on law enforcement, employment, the environment and education – have implications for health and well-being, and may also alleviate inequities in communities across the state. HIP didn’t do an HIA analysis on any of these bills, but much of the research we and others have done helps understand what is at stake. Momentum for this kind of informed decision-making is growing nationwide, and we’re hopeful that consideration of health and equity benefits and harms will only increase in California.

Here are two measures being considered by the governor and evidence that speaks directly to health considerations:

AB 4, the TRUST Act: Prohibiting police from turning undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities unless the immigrants already have a violent felony on their record. This measure directly affects many of the findings reported in Human Impact Partners’ Family Unity, Family Health HIA. If passed, the TRUST Act would reduce the threat of detention and deportation for California’s 2.7 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are parents of children who are U.S. citizens.

Our HIA found that the mere threat of detention or deportation had profound effects for these children and their families. Nationwide, if deportations continue at 2012 levels, consequences would include poorer child health, behavioral and educational outcomes as well as poorer adult health and reduced lifespan, increased levels of poverty, and diminished access to food.

Though targeted to the federal level, our HIA made a recommendation to effectively adopt the TRUST Act as a way of reducing the harms of current policies. We found that such a policy would help to turn around the wide range of health harms we identified that result from the threat of detention and deportation.

AB 10: Increasing the California state minimum wage from $8 to $10. The first HIA in the U.S., conducted by Dr. Rajiv Bhatia at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, examined the effects of a proposed living wage ordinance in San Francisco.

The analysis documented the benefits to adult health and children’s education achievement attributable to the adoption of a living wage of $11 per hour. The findings were significant, and predicted that adoption of the increased wage would result in decreases in the risk of premature death by five percent for adults 24 to 44 in households whose current income was around $20,000. For the children of these workers, a living wage would also result in an increase in high school graduation rates and a decrease in the risk of early childbirth. San Francisco legislators used findings from the research in adopting the ordinance, and it became law in 2003.

For both of these proposed policies, the evidence of health and equity benefits is compelling. In making his decisions, Gov. Brown should make public health and community equity the highest priority.

Lili Farhang

Lili Farhang
Co-Director

lili[at]humanimpact.org



Lili Farhang joined Human Impact Partners in December 2009 and serves as one of its two Co-directors. Guided by her long-standing belief that health is a product of social, economic and political forces, Lili works with community organizations, government agencies, and others to re-conceptualize how health is understood and how we can collectively improve health by taking action in, for example, land use, transportation, housing, incarceration, and labor domains. As one of the first practitioners of health impact assessment in the U.S., she has extensive experience in the management, research, and community engagement aspects of HIA – for example, she led the first ever community-based HIA in the country and has since conducted over a dozen HIAs. She also provides training and technical assistance to aspiring practitioners, using her practical experience to guide how HIAs are conducted, how public engagement is incorporated, and ultimately, how research that is meaningful and responsive to community and stakeholder needs is generated. Lili received her Master's degree in Public Health from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Women's Studies from Brandeis University.