The California Black Health Network (CBHN) advocates for health equity by leading and providing policy analysis, research and training and promotes best practices that create optimal conditions needed to sustain healthy Black people.

As the only Black-led, statewide organization advocating for Black health equity, we assist decision-makers throughout the state to develop policies and programs that create the social, economic and environmental conditions that improve the health in our communities.

COVID-19 has exacerbated and amplified health disparities and vulnerabilities that have long existed in the Black community in California. CBHN is working diligently to address the systemic inequities and racist structures that have caused these health disparities.


California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. According to a joint research effort by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 17.6% of Californians (about 6.8 million) lacked enough resources per year for a family of four to meet basic needs in 2018. Furthermore, nearly one in five (17.6%) Californians lived fairly close to the poverty line, meaning more than a third of Californians are living in or near poverty.

Black and African Americans have the highest rate of poverty compared to any other racial and ethnic group in America (18.8%) and the second highest poverty rate in California (18.2%). Poverty is highly correlated with poor health outcomes and increased morbidity and mortality. Poverty is a leading predictor for lacking basic human essentials including clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing, and shelter. Moreover, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, elevated blood lead levels, and low birth weight are all more prevalent among low-income individuals.

The persistent income and wealth gap in America perpetuates a cycle of economic struggle for Blacks and African Americans. Federal, state, and local policies have caused these economic inequities, therefore, CBHN advocates for equitable policies that will prevent individuals from falling into poverty and lift individuals out of poverty by:

  • Supporting investments in job creation strategies
  • Advocating for affordable housing
  • Supporting investments in affordable, high-quality childcare and early education
  • Strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Supporting policies and initiatives that would promote desegregating neighborhoods and provide a remedy for the state-sanctioned policies that caused high poverty rates in the Black and African American community

Environmental Justice

Due to environmental racism, Black and African Americans face greater harms from environmental factors, including disproportionate impacts from climate change. Black and African Americans are more likely to reside near sources of air pollution and are more likely to live in a neighborhood in close proximity to a Superfund toxic waste site, which leads to significant negative health outcomes. Additionally, Black and African American children have an increased likelihood of living in poverty, which increases their chances of being exposed to lead.

CBHN advocates for environmental justice by:

  • Supporting efforts to include environmental justice as a priority in climate policy
  • Supporting efforts to decrease Black and African American exposure to harmful toxins
  • Advocating for policies that prevent and respond to childhood lead exposure
  • Collaborating with statewide and community partners to advocate for environmental justice policies

Community Violence

Violence is a public health issue, and preventing violence is an important component of achieving health equity in our communities. Due to policies that have led to residential segregation, increased poverty, and community deterioration in Black and African American communities, Black and African Americans are more likely to be exposed to violence and suffer from negative health outcomes and loss of life due to the exposure.

CBHN will advocate for policies and initiatives that prevent community violence by:

  • Supporting violence prevention strategies that address environmental factors such as employment, education, housing, safe spaces, equity, and social cohesion
  • Advocating for violence prevention strategies that address historical and systemic inequities that allow violence to persist
  • Support efforts to invest in community-based organizations that implement evidence-based interventions and strategies

Access to Healthcare

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 significantly increased access to healthcare in California, however, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities continue to face challenges in having access to affordable healthcare.

CBHN advocates for access to affordable healthcare to all Californians by:

  • Supporting efforts to provide coverage to all Californians, regardless of immigration status, age, disability, income, or other factors.
  • Advocate for increased financial assistance in Covered California to reduce premiums and cost-sharing
  • Advocating for cost-effective coverage and value-based care, which focuses on value, quality of care and patient outcomes

Systemic Racism & Structural Inequities

Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how someone looks. Racism is undeniably a public health crisis. Racism is associated with poorer mental and physical health outcomes and negative patient experiences in the healthcare system.

CBHN works to address systemic racism and structural inequities by:

  • Supporting efforts to increase workforce diversity in California’s healthcare system
  • Advocating for the State to recognize racism as a public health crisis
  • Advocating for anti-racist policies and initiatives
  • Supporting investments towards community organizations that advance health equity

Black Infant and Maternal Health

Maternal and infant health outcomes serve as a true indicator for the overall public health of communities. The well-being of mothers and infants determines the health of the next generation and helps predict future public health challenges for families, communities, and the healthcare system.

In California, Blacks and African Americans fare worse on maternal and childbirth measures, with higher rates of low-risk, first-birth caesarean sections, preterm births, low-birthweight births, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.

CBHN is working to address these alarming disparities by:

  • Advocating for policies that would increase access to community-based doulas\
  • Advocating for policies that would extend postpartum coverage in Medi-Cal
  • Supporting efforts to address implicit bias and discrimination in healthcare
  • Advocating for policies that would increase access midwifery care and birthing centers
  • Supporting efforts to increase access to group prenatal and postpartum care (Centering)

Mental Health

The Health and Human Services office of Minority Health states that Blacks and African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Despite the need for mental healthcare, only one in three Black or African American adults who need mental healthcare receive it. Unfortunately, stigma around mental health conditions is still pervasive in our society, particularly in the Black and African American community.

CBHN works to address these disparities by:

  • Advocating for policies that would increase access to culturally responsive mental health treatment
  • Supporting state and local investments towards community-based organizations that provide mental health services in the community
  • Actively working to address stigma pertaining to mental health services in the Black and African American community