New Senate Select Committee looks at children and social determinants of health

Earlier this month the Senate Rules Committee finalize its appointments to new and on-going select committees for the 2019-2020 session. Among the new select committees created of health care interest are the Select Committee on Social Determinants of Children’s Well-Being, the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, and the Select Committee on Preparing California’s Future Workforce.


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Headed by Senator Holly Mitchell, the Select Committee on Social Determinants of Children’s Well-Being wasted no time getting down to business defining its scope and holding its first informational meeting on March 6, 2019. On its webpage, the Committee states that it will hold hearing that focus on specific social determinants of health that drive negative outcomes such as housing and homelessness, health access, immigration, poverty and the safety net, land use, and education. It continued:

“The Committee seeks to understand challenges in the current systems with the various determinants and consider ways to improve outcome for children… The Committee will study and make recommendations promoting the health of children in California. These recommendations will be posted on the Senate website.”

The well attended inaugural meeting focused on the impact of housing challenges on children’s well-being. As background the Committee considered a thorough 24 page report that summarized the theory behind connecting the social determinants of health and wellness to overall health and quality of life outcomes. It also explored the extent of the housing challenges in the state which included lack of housing stock, an affordability crisis, and lingering inequity resultant from the Great Recession and foreclosure crisis.

For kids, the report highlights, homelessness can be particularly devastating on short-term and long-term health.

“In short, homeless children have more health problem… Homeless children are at greater risk for asthma and lead poisoning. Because of poor nutrition, homeless children are six times more likely than housed children to experience stunted growth and seven time more like to experience anemia. Tragically, homelessness also makes it harder to access consistent health care, which can lead to greater severity of illness. Homelessness itself is stressful and traumatic, causing emotional distress in children as they are constantly dealing with change. The stress leads to higher incidences of mental disorders, which are then manifested in behavior.”

The Committee heard testimony from seven experts and community leaders who offered touching personal stories of experiences of homelessness as well as insights on the causes and effects of unstable housing on children and offered strategies to attack the problem from various angles. Some options to consider include increasing housing subsidies, like housing choice vouchers and rapid rehousing, so that more can maintain and afford housing, prohibiting rental discrimination on the basis of source of income, increasing affordable housing units, and re-examining zoning codes to encourage more multi-family housing.

Keep a lookout in the coming weeks for further hearings related to health care such as health access, poverty and safety net programs, and education.