E. Richard (Rick) Brown was a nationally recognized public health leader who advocated for health care reform and pioneered the collection and broad dissemination of health survey data to influence policy.
As a past president of the American Public Health Association and a member of dozens of health advisory committees and boards, and through his work for two U.S. presidents (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) and three U.S. senators (Bob Kerrey, Paul Wellstone and Bill Bradley), Brown forged a reputation for his intense determination to make health care services more accessible and more affordable to all Americans. He was a tireless advocate for the uninsured, and he promoted the development of health data surveys to both dispel persistent myths about the uninsured and document the devastating consequences of the chronic lack of health insurance for millions of Americans.
Brown, who received his doctorate at UC Berkeley, was a professor in the departments of health services and community health sciences at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and founder of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health survey and a critical source of information for California and national lawmakers. Brown was also the founding director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, which was formed in 1994 to translate academic research into practical evidence that policy audiences and community health organizations could use in their work. Central to this vision was the concept of credible and comprehensive data that could make a non-partisan case for policies and programs aimed at improving the health and well-being of all Californians and the nation.
In 2001, the Center for Health Policy Research produced the first CHIS data from interviews with more than 55,000 California households, creating in the process a wealth of health data on the nation’s most populous and diverse state. Subsequent iterations of the survey followed from 2003 to 2009. CHIS has become an essential source for policymakers, advocates, researchers, media and others interested in understanding the health of Californians and that of previously under-studied ethnic, racial, disabled and sexual minority groups.
As an activist, Brown co-authored California’s first single-payer health care legislation in 1990 and co-wrote several other health-care reform bills in the 1990s and 2000s, which helped shape the policy and political dialogue on health care reform during those decades.
Teased by his family that he was “a serious man,” Brown had a broad smile and deep-throated laugh that was infectious. His ever-present generosity of spirit made him beloved by many, including his wife of 46 years, Marianne Parker Brown, his daughters Delia Brown and Adrienne Faxio, his son-in-law John Faxio, his granddaughter Makeda, and his brother Julian Horowitz.
Adapted from UCLA’s obituary for Richard Brown.