Top Education & Health Care Leaders Unite to Strengthen California’s Health Workforce

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017
Justin Greenberg / 202.800.7410 /
Denise Luu / 646.693.8188 /

New commission will create plan to bring state’s health jobs in line with 21st-century population needs.

STATEWIDE – Leaders from across the health and education sectors are joining together to draft a blueprint to ensure California’s workforce is ready to meet the population’s current and future health needs.

The California Future Health Workforce Commission, which brings together leaders in the health, education, and workforce development sectors, will convene over the next 15 months to draft a master plan to bolster the health workforce with an emphasis on primary care, behavioral health, and care for the aging. It is the first time that top statewide leaders from these sectors have coordinated efforts to address this issue.

The commission is co-chaired by Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, which operates the largest health sciences education and training system in the nation and is a major health provider, and Lloyd Dean, president/CEO of Dignity Health, one of the state’s top health employers. The roster of 24 commissioners includes some of the most accomplished and respected health, policy, workforce development, and education leaders in the state. Four of California’s leading health philanthropies are supporting the project: The California Endowment, California Health Care Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation and Blue Shield of California Foundation.

California’s population is growing, rapidly aging, and becoming increasingly diverse – trends that place an untenable burden on the state’s health workforce. The pipeline of caregivers, including doctors, nurses, therapists, and elder care specialists, has not kept pace with demand, particularly in underserved, rural, and ethnically- and linguistically-diverse communities. Training for some health professionals takes many years and is very expensive. It is therefore urgent that state leaders act now to address future workforce challenges and to reduce the adverse effects on health access, cost, and outcomes.

Better coordinated planning and investment will ensure California has the right people, with the right training, in the right places to fill the current and new roles that will be essential to meeting future health needs.

The Future Health Commission will examine a variety of themes with implications for health workforce development, including:

  • Addressing current and emerging workforce shortages in urban and rural areas to ensure access to quality, affordable services, and improved equity in health outcomes.
  • Preparing a health workforce that has the necessary skills and training and can leverage technological advances to promote health and improve efficiency of care delivery.
  • Prioritizing innovation in workforce and training solutions to address rising health care and education costs.
  • Increasing opportunities for California residents to become the future health workforce and secure rewarding jobs in service to their communities.

“I am honored and eager to help spearhead this urgent effort to prepare and expand our state’s health workforce to meet the needs of California’s increasingly diverse population,” said Janet Napolitano, co-chair of the California Future Health Workforce Commission and president of the University of California. “Now is the time to craft a blueprint that will help guide policymakers, health care educators, providers, and other state and community leaders in implementing a sustainable and forward-looking strategy that ensures all Californians have access to high-quality health care.”

Lack of access to primary care physicians, behavioral health providers, and other health professionals, particularly those with cultural and linguistic capacities relevant to the communities they serve, has devastating effects on residents’ health. California’s current shortage and uneven geographic distribution of health providers means that needs go unmet in large swaths of the state as residents struggle to get quality care within a reasonable amount of time.

  • In California, demand for primary care providers will increase by up to 17 percent by 2030, while 38 percent of primary care physicians are age 55 or older and are expected to reduce their hours or retire within the next decade. This will leave California with an estimated shortage of 4,100 primary care clinicians in 2030.
  • The Inland Empire and Central Valley, two of the largest and fastest-growing regions of the state, have ratios of primary care physicians far below national standards. The Inland Empire has 42 percent of the primary care doctors recommended by the Council on Graduate Medical Education and the Central Valley just 35 percent.
  • For decades California has had one of the lowest ratios of registered nurses in the US. In 2013 the state ranked 46 out of 50.
  • Four of the ten counties in California with the highest prevalence of mental distress have no psychiatrists.
  • Thirty-eight percent of California’s population is Latino, while only seven percent of physicians, 15 percent of nurse practitioners, and 22 percent of physician assistants are Latino. The issue is equally acute in nursing and behavioral health: 7 percent of registered nurses, 4 percent of psychiatrists and 8 percent of psychologists are Latino. African-Americans, Native Americans, and some Asian-Pacific Islander ethnic groups are also underrepresented among these professions.
  • Nationwide total employment in the long-term care sector is projected to increase by 79 percent between 2010 and 2030.
  • Personal care aides who assist persons with physical and cognitive disabilities with bathing, dressing, and other activities of daily living, are projected to have the largest growth in the number of jobs of any occupation in California.

Over the next 15 months, the commissioners – along with technical advisers and the commission’s expert support staff – will work to develop a master plan for California to heal the gap between the health landscape that exists today and one that works for future generations while simultaneously creating thousands of jobs in the sector.

“Our health workforce shortage affects every Californian – but our history as innovators gives me great confidence that we will find solutions,” said Lloyd Dean, co-chair of the California Future Health Workforce Commission and president/CEO of Dignity Health. “Access to quality health care is one of the great challenges of our time. We need a sustainable, forward-looking and scalable strategy – and this commission has the expertise and know-how to get us there.”

The California Future Health Workforce Commission will hold its first meeting in September 2017 and will conclude its work in December 2018. With the support of a full technical staff directed by Kevin Barnett from Public Health Institute and Jeff Oxendine from UC Berkeley School of Public Health, the commissioners plan to release research and recommendations during 2018.

Full list of all commissioners >>

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