The Coastal Post - November, 1996

Health Organizations Oppose Prop. 209

More than 30 of the nation's leading medical, health and education associations are urging Californians to vote against the California Civil Rights (CCRI) because of its harmful impact on the effectiveness of the state's future workforce of physicians, nurses, dentists and other health care providers. All members of a national coalition, Health Professionals for Diversity, these organizations will run a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers starting October 24 that explains why Californians should vote NO on Proposition 209.

"Our goal is to raise awareness among voters that the so-called California "Civil Rights" Initiative is neither civil nor right. If Prop. 209 passes, it will result in unhealthy outcomes for the state," said Jordan J. Cohen, M.D., president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. "The schools that educate tomorrow's physicians, nurses, dentists and other health care professionals still need affirmative action programs to achieve the necessary and important diversity in the health care workforce. The students we educate today will serve an even more diverse public tomorrow. Prop. 209 would take the important tool of affirmative action away from health educators in California. And the result would be a future health care workforce that is less diverse and therefore less effective in serving the state's multi-cultural population."

Research published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that California's minority physicians provide the bulk of care to the state's minority populations and the poor. "Eliminating affirmative action programs now would jeopardize the ability of California health are educators to ensure that medical underserved populations will continue to have access to the essential physicians and other health care providers that serve them now," said Dr. Cohen.

Launched August 1, Health Professionals for Diversity is dedicated to promoting the value of diversity in the health professions, and ensuring that health profession schools continue to have the freedom to consider race, ethnicity and gender among many important factors as they assemble and educate the most effective and culturally competent health care workforce for future generations.

"Opponents to affirmative action have tried to make the argument that it results in less qualified professionals. They are wrong," said Dr. Cohen. "No one graduates from America's health profession schools who has not met all the rigorous qualifications demanded."

In addition to running ads, the coalition is alerting its California members through direct mail about the unhealthy impact of CCRI. The coalition also is a co-sponsor of a student rally scheduled for October 27 at noon at the Westwood Federal Building in Los Angeles.

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