February 26, 2001

The California Endowment, the state's largest health foundation, announced today that $50 million has been pledged over the next five years to develop programs that will significantly improve the health status of California's agricultural workers.

At a rally in Fresno today Mexico President Vicente Fox and Governor Gray Davis hailed the move as an important step in addressing a significant public policy issue and pledged to work jointly with the foundation to support the development of creative strategies to improve the health conditions of the state's estimated one million agricultural workers. President Fox expressed "sincere appreciation and gratitude to The California Endowment for its $50 million commitment to help improve the health of the state's agricultural workers."

The Governor commented, "This is a historical investment and it will go a long way toward improving the health of our state's agricultural workers."

Robert K. Ross, M.D., president & CEO of The Endowment, said the multi-million dollar commitment is in response to the recommendations of the foundation's Agricultural Workers Health Task Force formed four months ago in response to Suffering In Silence: A Report on the Health of California's Agricultural Workers. The report stated that the vast majority of California's agricultural workers are at serious risk for life-threatening chronic diseases caused by poor nutrition and little or no access to health care.

Task Force recommendations focused on priorities in the areas of access to care, health education & prevention, occupational health & safety, housing, and cross-border health insurance coverage. While looking toward a 5 to 10 year commitment to create systemic change, it was recommended that The Endowment take immediate action to address pressing heath needs of this population. The final report from the Task Force is expected within the coming weeks.

"While immediate action is needed, we believe that a holistic, comprehensive and integrated approach, involving the agricultural workers and their families, must be taken in order to develop long-term solutions," explained Esteban Torres, Task Force Chair. "However, a binational approach to health care coverage is equally important."

"We would like to thank Esteban Torres and the other members, who include some of the state's top agricultural, health, labor and political leaders, for their deep commitment to identifying long-term, sustainable solutions," said Dr. Ross. "It was refreshing to see key policy makers as Senator Deborah Ortiz, Assemblymember Sarah Reyes and Assemblymember Dean Florez at the table and helping to lead the charge on this topic." Dr. Ross went on to point out that the Task Force will continue to guide The Endowment as programs are developed based on Task Force recommendations.

Stewart Kwoh, chairman of The Endowment's Board of Directors, stated that positive movement on both sides of the California-Mexico border encouraged The Endowment to make such a significant commitment.

"We were impressed with President Fox's pragmatic vision of a binational community, as well as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor's support for farm worker housing legislation which was recently enacted," said Kwoh. "This week's meetings between President Fox and Governor Davis represent additional encouraging signs of progress."

The California Endowment, the state's largest health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment has regional offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California. For more information, or to receive a copy of the Suffering in Silence report, please visit our Web site at http://www.calendow.org.

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