Santa Rosa, CA – June 9, 2015 – Sonoma County marks the one-year anniversary of the release of an influential report, A Portrait of Sonoma County that provided the County with the first comprehensive in-depth look at disparities in Sonoma County. The report, commissioned by the Department of Health Services (DHS), opened a dialogue about the importance of equity to the long-term health and prosperity of our community. In addition, the report highlighted measures the community and local government can take to address disparities in our community. The report can be viewed online at sonomacounty.ca.gov/a-Portrait-of-Sonoma-County/
The Portrait assesses "human development" in the county's 99 census tracts and highlights five priority areas of unmet potential: Southwest, Southeast and Northwest Santa Rosa; the Springs area of Sonoma Valley; and Cloverdale. The Portrait's Agenda for Action recommends making universal preschool a reality and redoubling antismoking efforts countywide and taking place-based approaches to improving health.
The Portrait underscored the relationship between income, education, and health outcomes in our community. The report, which analyzes differences in life expectancy, personal earnings, and educational attainment data based on neighborhood, race and ethnicity, and gender. The Portrait finds that the most extreme disparities in basic health, education, and earnings outcomes are often found within small geographical areas; top ranking East Bennett Valley is just five miles away from bottom ranking Roseland Creek.
The report was informed by a group of representatives from over 50 cross-sector organizations that also helped disseminate the findings through over 130 formal presentations. The report was released with a pledge of support that has been signed by over 90 organizations and individuals. "We said we didn't want this report to sit on a shelf, and it hasn't," said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin. "The outpouring of community support has been tremendous. The Board remains committed to working together with our community to address these disparities."
Many organizations share that they are using the Portrait to conduct strategic planning, develop programming, apply for or fund grant applications, communicate with partners and stakeholders, and better understand the community. Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County recently expanded services to Cloverdale, adopting the local financial empowerment program CAFÉ. United Way of the Wine Country used the Portrait's data to review its locations for its Schools of Hope and Earn It! Keep It! Save It! programs. "The Portrait confirmed we were in the right areas and helped us identify gaps where we could do better," said United Way of the Wine Country Executive Director, Mike Kallhoff.
"The Portrait highlights preschool and early care and education needs" said Melanie Dodson, Executive Director at 4C's. "It has been instrumental in prioritizing and advancing conversations about preschool facilities and universal preschool." In December 2014, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to explore possible financing strategies for universal preschool. First 5 Sonoma County Commission approved $350,000 for a Facilities Grant Program. Recently, on May 19, the Board of Supervisors approved the development of the First 5 grant program and contributed an additional $305,000 to the program. With this level of funding, First 5 can leverage state and federal dollars to preserve all subsidized preschool slots at risk of being lost, as well as expand slots so that more children will be able to access early education.
The Portrait has also been a catalyst for tobacco policy. "The Portrait lit a fire under us to pass a tobacco retail license (TRL)," said Sonoma City Councilmember Madolyn Agrimonti about the council's recent vote to adopt a local TRL on June 1. "Having the data and countywide momentum of addressing tobacco use significantly influenced the conversation." The County is also considering a TRL for the unincorporated area that is scheduled to be heard by the Board of Supervisors on July 21.
The Agenda for Action also specified supporting home visiting programs, specifically the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) that is managed by DHS' Public Health Division, is a proven evidence-based strategy to reduce poverty. NFP provides nurse home visits to low-income, first-time mothers to provide support, education and counseling on health, behavioral and self-sufficiency issues. As a result, this support over a two-year period leads to the resiliency and positive behaviors needed for success in the workforce and life.
This program takes advantage of this remarkable window of brain development during the first 1,000 days of a child's life when development of functions such as hearing, language, and cognition are at its peak. "Home visiting nurse services like the Nurse-Family Partnership work with new mothers until kids are in preschool to address all aspects of parenting and care. These programs are proven to reduce poverty, improve kids' reading and school achievement, and result in better childhood health outcomes. NFP is exactly the kind of program we need to start reducing the disparities documented in the Portrait," said Dr. Lisa Ward, Chief Medical Officer, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.
Moving forward, Sonoma County's three major hospitals have agreed to integrate the Portrait's equity data into their next Community Health Needs Assessment process. Every three years the hospitals collaborate on this assessment, and the next cycle is just beginning. "Integrating the Portrait will allow us to sustainably monitor disparities and allocate resources to areas with the most unmet potential," said Judy Coffey, Vice President of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa. "Through Kaiser's Community Benefit, we already use the Portrait data to justify health need priorities and help decide where we fund, and we encourage applicants to reference the data."
Selected from more than 340 communities across the country, Sonoma County joins 14 other finalist communities. Site visitors will be touring Sonoma County on June 10 and 11, and up to 10 communities will be announced as winners this fall.
As a reflection on the Portrait's impact, pledge signers are currently participating in a social media project entitled "Portraits of Sonoma County," literally framing how they are using the Portrait in their work. The slide show will be available at the end of the month at: sonomacounty.ca.gov/a-Portrait-of-Sonoma-County/