Press Release: Connecting for Better Health Coalition Holds Expert Panel on Public Health Equity Through Health Data Modernization

April 30, 2021
Contact: Nick Day | (612) 396-2908 | 

Connecting for Better Health Coalition Holds Expert Panel on Public Health Equity Through Health Data Modernization 

Expert Panel, Moderated by Dr. Hector Rodriguez, Features Dr. Julia Adler-Milstein, Dr. Alice Chen, and Rhonda M. Smith

SACRAMENTO — This week, the Connecting for Better Health Coalition held an expert panel on the critical issue of public health equity, and how a statewide HIE network would ensure California advances quality patient care for every community. 

The hour-long panel, convened on Wednesday, April 28, saw over 100 attendees and, as California is envisioning a path to recovery from COVID-19, timely insights from leading health and equity experts. 

The panel was moderated by Dr. Hector Rodriguez, PhD, MPH; UC Berkeley Professor of Health Policy and Management, who said, “I was honored to moderate this excellent discussion today on the importance of an HIE to advance California’s health equity and public health goals. These three expert panelists spoke powerfully about the need to build a statewide HIE network in California — and how it is the beginning, not the end, of ensuring the health of every California community.” 

Guest panelist Dr. Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, a Professor of Medicine at UCSF, spoke to the inadequacy of California’s current approach to health data. “Why are we having this conversation in 2021, after so many resources have been devoted to digitizing our healthcare system?” she said. “Because we’ve digitized around the silos that already exist. We’ve replicated the separation in an electronic way. By building a statewide HIE network we aim to change that.”

In reviewing her experience as a key decision maker in California’s COVID-19 response, Dr. Alice Chen, Chief Medical Officer at Covered California, said, “In many ways California has led the country in terms of embedding health equity in our COVID response, but it was hampered by our decentralized systems. During the July surge, when we needed data most, hardest hit hospitals were so short staffed, they didn’t have people to manually enter data. It was like going 70 miles an hour and hitting a fog bank. A statewide HIE will help us modernize and standardize our systems, and ensure that in a crisis such as COVID, the data we need is at our fingertips.”

Rhonda M. Smith, Executive Director of California Black Health Network, a statewide leader in health equity issues, rounded out the conversation. “Decreasing health disparities really takes a village. It takes payers, patients, providers, policy, the public, and partners in this process — to begin to dismantle the barriers and all the issues that create the complex system of health disparities. We all have a role to play in advancing health equity for every California community, and there’s no time like the present to get started.” 

A recording of the panel will soon be available at the coalition’s website, and featured on its Twitter page.

The Connecting for Better Health Coalition is a partnership of the most influential healthcare leaders across California. The coalition’s website,, features testimonial videos from patients about the need for a statewide HIE network, as well as information about the coalition’s policy vision and participants.



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