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The Crisis of Health and Human Rights in South L.A. : Leveraging Lessons and Getting Results in South LA and Beyond Los Angeles, CA, USA

South Los Angeles, formerly known as South Central Los Angeles, encompasses nearly 100 square miles and is generally considered to include the communities located south of the Santa Monica Freeway, east of LA Brea Avenue, and north of the Century Freeway. With more than one million residents, South Los Angeles is home to many historic neighborhoods, including Leimert Park, the Crenshaw District, Morningside Park, West Adams, Watts, Willowbrook, Compton, Baldwin Hills, Inglewood and Lynwood.

Long-standing structural violence have led to deep inequities in the health care and physical environment in South Los Angeles. These inequities, in turn, have led to and been worsened by poor health and social outcomes.

While data fail to fully convey the health and human rights situation in south Los Angeles, the following statistics help illustrate the degree of inequity and burden of disease in our community.

In South LA,

  • 30% of adults are uninsured
  • There are 8.5 liquor stores per square mile compared to 0.10 large-scale supermarkets per square-mile
  • 37% of households are overcrowded
  • 64% of schools are insufficiently staffed, resourced, and without a clean, safe and functional learning environment
  • 91% of homeless residents are unsheltered
  • 14.1% of residents are unemployed, which more than double the rate in West Los Angeles
  • Homicide is the leading cause of premature death. In 2004, 40% of homicides in Los Angeles County occurred in South LA.
  • Five South LA emergency rooms have closed since 2000. Only one full-scale ER/trauma center remains to serve over one million residents in a nearly 100 square mile area
  • There are 0.11 school-based health centers per 1000 uninsured children.
  • Only 1.1 HIV/STD screening agencies available per 100,000 individuals despite having the highest HIV mortality rate in the county and the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia
  • There are only 11 pediatricians per 100,000 children, less than five times the county average and well below the rate of 190 /100,000 in West Los Angeles.
  • There are only 1.6 specialist physicians/ 100,000, less than three times the county average.  
Health and Human Rights:

An Effective Framework for Understanding and Taking on Inequity and Injustice in South LA and beyond

Residents of South LA and those who serve them know that silo-based approaches that lack true community participation, monitoring, and accountability have failed to reduce inequities and improve health. In contrast, many well-developed community-led human rights approaches have produced measurable improvements around the world, including within the US. For instance, the movements for labor, civil rights, and women's rights have led to major improvements in people's lives in south LA.

On December 7, 2012, South Los Angeles-based residents, service providers, and advocates joined with colleagues from across the world to discuss how a health and human rights framework can lead to the change we need. View photos from the event.



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