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Picture of Jessica Ogilvie

At a conference like today's "Improving Health Literacy in Los Angeles," which focused on the sensitive issue of improving health literacy in some of Los Angeles' underserved communities, racial stereotypes should be a far-away concern.

But when the time came for tables of conference attendees to report back to the whole after doing a group interactive activity, it became clear that even the most well-meaning and forward-thinking health professionals have far to go.

Picture of Jessica Ogilvie

The focus of today's conference, Improving Health Literacy in Los Angeles, was on ways in which medical providers can improve the community's understanding of health concerns and health care.

We are “focusing on expanding health literacy in L.A. and the western region,” said Ellen Iverson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine, who introduced the conference panelists.

Picture of Jessica Ogilvie

For journalists, the topic of health care disparities — particularly in Los Angeles — is a familiar concept. Exploring the discrepencies in care between various socioeconimic and ethnic groups often leads down a road of dismal statistics and frustrating realities. 

But what happens if we refocus our gaze away from the patients and onto the providers?

Picture of Jessica Ogilvie

As one of the largest, most expansive cities in the country, Los Angeles faces huge challenges in getting out health-related messages that resonate with the city's myriad cultures. Lack of health literacy, or having trouble understanding either the benefits or the details of modern, often Western medicine, has ripple effects, including patients being less likely to seek preventive care and more likely to use hospital emergency rooms for routine medical care. 

Picture of Michelle Levander

Melvin Baron has spent his career educating the public about health and medicine, first as a pharmacist and then as a USC Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy. He’s 77 now, and he confesses to some frustration with the handouts that pharmacists and doctors use to inform patients about health and medicine.

“Much of what we give you is lousy,” he told me. “It’s a lot of words. Most of it is way above the audience. It doesn’t resonate and it’s boring.”

Picture of Angilee Shah

If you are anticipating covering Southern California's inevitable weather stories this summer -- heat waves, water shortages, wildfires -- consider this: These narratives are health, environment, public policy and economic stories all in one.

Picture of Julio Cesar Ortiz

Julio Cesar Ortiz, a reporter for KMEX TV 34 (Univision) in Los Angeles, produced a three-part series that examined the effects of Alzheimer's disease on elderly Latinos. Titled "Thief of Memories," his Spanish-language series highlighted the various stages of the memory-destroying condition and presented options for families who are struggling to care for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease.

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