Advocates Prioritize Health Education and Advocacy in the Jordan Downs Community

IMG_48897:30AM Jordan High School, Watts: On a warm summer Saturday morning, the normally calm Jordan High School was invigorated by the hustle and bustle of over 50 volunteers setting up blood pressure stations, laying out fresh fruits and vegetables, and putting up colorful signs to guide patients through a day of health services and resources. This day marked the High School’s first health fair, which took place on Saturday, July 9th in Watts, South Los Angeles. PSR-LA – in collaboration with Harbor UCLA’s Summer Urban Health Fellowship, Jordan High School, and the LA Human Right to Housing Collective – put on this free health fair as a part of our ongoing work evaluating health and land use in South Central Los Angeles, in particular with the Jordan Downs public housing community.

The health fair provided a number of free health services and resources for residents throughout Watts and the surrounding areas, ranging from clinical and preventive care, health education, and tools to support local civic engagement. Over 120 individuals were served from areas such as Watts, University Park, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Inglewood, and Hawthorne. Residents were able to access health services such as blood pressure measurements, glucose, anemia, vision, and BMI checks, as well as immunizations, mammograms, dental care, chiropractic services, and patient counseling. The health fair also offered a number of educational resources covering topics including lead poisoning, mental health, obtaining insurance through Covered California, and nutrition and diabetes. Voter registration was also available at the fair, along with additional guidance and resources on advocacy and civic engagement, provided by PSR-LA, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and the LA Human Right to Housing Collective.

IMG_4917Data collected from those who attended the health fair revealed a 38% uninsured rate (2.5 times greater than the LA County average), 28% rate of diabetes (about 3 times greater than the LA County average), and an elevated asthma rate of 11.25% (about 1.25 times greater than the LA County average). Though this data is not representative of the entire Watts community, it provides an important snapshot into some of the crucial health concerns facing the community.

The July 9th health fair is part of the Jordan Downs Environmental Justice Coalition*’s (JDEJC) efforts to gain a comprehensive, holistic picture of health in Watts. These efforts include ongoing Health Talks with local residents, first conducted by PSR-LA, the Human Right to Housing Collective, and Harbor-UCLA. The Coalition followed up with a series of Summer Health Talks with community members and parents, the first of which was conducted by students from Jordan High School and discussed the health impacts of exposure to lead and arsenic. This talk speaks to ongoing concerns about environmental contamination in Watts, in particular related to the cleanup of brownfield adjacent to Jordan High School that has been contaminated with elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and other toxins. Community concerns about the true extent of the contamination and elevated lead levels within the housing community have been consistently underplayed by regulatory agencies such as the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. The Summer Health Talks showcases efforts to create and support community leaders working to promote health in their own neighborhoods.

Moving forward, the Coalition is organizing a Health Needs Assessment, alongside the Department of Family Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The assessment will focus on children’s health, collecting information on perceptions of housing and neighborhood conditions, health status among children and adults, and demographics in the Watts community. By gaining additional information about the quality of air, soil, and water in the community, as well as lead levels, diabetes, cancer, asthma, and healthcare access, among others, the JDEJC hopes to identify areas at Watts that may be at disproportionate risk of health concerns relating to South Central’s long history with industrial contamination and environmental justice issues. The results of the Health Needs Assessment will be presented during a Health Summit which will occur at the end of the calendar year.

The Jordan Downs Environmental Justice Coalition (JDEJC) was officially formed by Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA, the LA Human Right to Housing Collective, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles in 2015, in order to address the increasingly pressing housing and environmental injustices occurring at the Jordan Downs public housing community. To learn more about our advocacy at Jordan Downs, please contact Monika Shankar at [email protected]

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