(photo credit: Cosmin Cosma)
What do you think is the number one factor when measuring a region’s public health? The environment? Access to medical care?
According to Inland Empire economist Dr. John Husing, the answer is income, education, poverty, and unemployment.
The report out of Economics and Politics Inc., which used University of Wisconsin research, looked into the economic conditions of regions across California and the impact those conditions have on public health. In short, Southern California’s Inland Empire is in a world of trouble.
Husing’s study found that Riverside (36th) and San Bernardino (46th) counties ranked in the lower half of California’s 58 counties for public health. Husing minces no words about the ramifications of having such a poor public health rating: “Unless today’s leaders of the Inland Empire are willing to have a permanent and growing underclass with the public health and social justice issues that this creates, they must undertake a concerted effort to address the socio-economic issues emerging in the region.”
The revelation that public health is most closely tied to socio-economic categories rather than things like environmental quality or hospital quantity establishes some critical information for how to approach such dismal rankings. Husing doesn’t come out to refute the importance of other categories, but he does place considerable weight in socio-economics. For this reason, if California as a whole wants to tackle a public health deficiency, it’s on the socio-economic front that its battle will reside.
One area where Husing makes this connection between health and the economy is in education policy. Research has shown a strong correlation between levels of education and overall health indicators, like death rates. The Inland Empire has had difficulty with both low levels of highly educated adults – 48.7 percent of adults in San Bernardino County have a high school or lower education — and health factors. Husing’s prescription is to not just help create good-paying jobs, but create the career pathways and skills training to get those jobs which should elevate community health.
With this charge in mind, the California Economic Summit is working to align regional leaders to advance triple-bottom-line solutions that promote economic, social, and environmental progress throughout the state. To put it simply, prosperity comes from good jobs, rising incomes, and community health. Initiatives of the Summit, like encouraging the creation of good, middle-class jobs with good paychecks is what can help turn around the Inland Empire’s public health situation.
“It means undertaking a serious effort to expand access to the short course technical and skill programs that workers need to navigate the skill ladders in those sectors,” writes Husing. “In the longer term, it means providing today’s students with educations that illustrate for them the relationship between their school work and the jobs they may one day wish to have. It also means showing students and their parents that academic and/or technical training can and should be part of their future and that it will be financially feasible for them to acquire it.”