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Director's Message

Health and health care are steady sources of news headlines, from national to state to local issues, especially as the presidential campaigns gain steam. As long as policy makers consider changes that impact the health of all Californians, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research will keep working to produce the information valued by health care leaders for evidence-based policy decisions. That was true when the Center was founded 25 years ago, and it remains true today.

We started 2019 with lofty goals, and looking back I am so proud of all the hard work our staff has put in to rise to the many challenges – exceeding our plans. As state leaders explore possible universal health care models for California, we chose to kick off our 25th anniversary year launching the E.R. Brown Symposium bringing academic expertise to the discussion. We hosted international experts in Sacramento and at UCLA to learn from other models around the globe.

We continued work on long-standing projects the Center is known for, serving as a premiere health data resource in the state. The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) maintains its status as the leading health surveillance tool. We completed a survey redesign, evolving to both improve survey science and cover emerging health topics. CHIS continues to be recognized for its public impacts; as Director I accepted AcademyHealth’s distinguished Health Services Research Impact Award in June.

Associate Center Director Steven Wallace promotes crucial work on the Research on ImmiGrant HealTH and State policy (RIGHTS), bringing to light the experiences that Latino and Asian immigrants who live in California have encountered in the areas of health care, social services, employment, education, and law enforcement and how these experiences have had an impact on their health and access to health care. Associate Center Director Nadereh Pourat leads a team providing policy and program insights on state-level and national projects such as the Public Hospital Redesign and Incentives in Medi-Cal (PRIME), and new efforts to improve whole person care in health care systems, as well as assessing the value of community health centers for the federal Health Resources and Services and Administration.

Center researchers are also engaged in state and local communities, conducting multiple evaluations for programs in Los Angeles County and with the California Department of Health Services Tobacco Control and Prevention Program to evaluate secondhand smoke exposure from tobacco, marijuana, and vaping in multi-unit housing, and to measure the public interest in smoke-free housing policies. Research Scientist Kathryn Kietzman is initiating a meaningful project to gather much-needed data that looks at the use of and demand for long-term services and supports (LTSS) in the state.

Senior Fellow Gerald Kominski leads efforts to advance another Center tool – the California Simulation of Insurance Markets (CalSIM) – expanding a vital resource for Covered California leaders to anticipate and respond to changes in insurance policy to maintain high coverage rates for state residents. CalSIM’s underlying model is also being applied to other states, informing policy reforms across the country.

Other Center activities are showcasing the impact of our work on increasing equity and building metrics that precisely reflect our diverse populations. We built on our 2018 work in immigrant health and policy; our past evaluation of the effects of the new proposed federal rule for Public Charge is still informing groups working against the rule change that would negatively impact immigrants seeking lawful permanent residency in the US. In recognition for this work I had the privilege of being a 2019 honoree of Asian Health Services, a federally-qualified community health center serving the low-income Asian American community in the Oakland area.   Nationally, we are leading the National Network of Health Surveys to improve survey practice and use of disaggregated data to help address health inequities in underserved communities. Additionally, we are wrapping a project reviewing data disaggregation practices in federal health surveys related to American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) populations.

2020 brings some special events for the Center. In addition to an official celebration of our 25 years of growing health policy impact and our next installment in the E.R. Brown Symposium series, I have the honor to serve as Chair for the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting.

As we head into a presidential election year, the conversations around improving health care continue, which means our work is more relevant than ever. We look forward to officially celebrating our first 25 years of growth, and looking forward to our next 25 years of building high-quality evidence to improve health care for all (check back to the website for exciting details!). I am honored and humbled to continue to lead this group of talented researchers building the in-demand evidence to improve health policy and care for California and beyond.

Wishing you the best in health in 2020!

Ninez Ponce, PhD
UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Read more about Ninez Ponce here.