More than 1,000 San Joaquin Valley residents descended on the California State Capitol April 26 to call for stronger action to end the region’s pressing inequity problems, especially regarding access to health services.

At the eighth annual Equity on the Mall – one of the largest community mobilizations to Sacramento this year – families, community organizers and nonprofit leaders presented their ideas to address racism in environmental, health and economic  matters in central California. These issues, including inequity in access to health services, are especially important to Latinos, who make up more than half of the Valley’s population, its largest ethnic group. A significant proportion of them are undocumented and immigrant, given the agricultural economy.   

The San Joaquin Valley, smack in the middle of a state that boasts the world’s fourth largest economy, is the breadbasket of the nation. It’s also home to some of the most polluted air and water in the country. A 2022 report by the California State Auditor found that most of the nearly one million Californians coping with failing water systems live in the San Joaquin Valley. 

These conditions are even deadlier when combined with our rampant economic inequality and lack of access to health care. We believe these conditions arose because of decisions made by people. So we, the people, came together to call for different decisions to help our families and communities.

We are firmly committed to advancing racial, social, health and economic equity in the San Joaquin Valley. We understand that issues such as environmental rehabilitation, immigrant rights, expanded educational opportunities, affordable housing, living wage employment, sensible land use, Internet access and quality health care all intersect and significantly impact health and wellness. 

For us, as well as many other leaders working in the Valley, health equity is more than abstract research or an academic medical issue. We believe it should be a vigorously pursued fundamental right no matter where you live, your race or ethnicity, or your socioeconomic status.

At Equity on the Mall, we united for change to improve the health of communities across this region. We made lawmakers listen to our call for better, healthier policies. We know  wealthier coastal regions in our state get better health services than our Valley and other inland regions. Now, they also know that we won’t sit passively waiting for the change that brings us what we deserve: cleaner air and water, better health services, and real equity regardless of race.

Read more stories about equity here.

Naindeep Singh was raised in the Central Valley with a commitment to racial and class justice before graduating from UCLA and Johns Hopkins University. His academic research has received numerous awards...

Chet P. Hewitt is CEO of the nonprofit The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, which uses a collective impact approach to promoting health equity, racial justice and community-powered economic development...