Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06) announced $1.7 million of federal funding for UC Davis Health’s Digital Health Equity Program at a June press conference on the Sacramento campus.

The funding, which Matsui championed as part of H.R. 2471, the government funding omnibus package, will support the creation of a regional digital public health platform to improve access and continuity of care for vulnerable populations in Sacramento and Northern California.

The program will address health disparities, especially in underrepresented minority and low-income populations, partnering with Federally Qualified Health Centers and community-based organizations.

“To truly achieve health equity, we need to ensure everyone can access the highest quality health care that enables and empowers individuals to optimize their well-being,” Matsui said. “The work this program will do to reach vulnerable populations is transformative. Here at UC Davis Health, they are building a digitally inclusive and accessible society, which is critical to ensuring health care delivery and empowering underserved communities.”

The program will fund four digital health navigator positions, as well as IT infrastructure that will expand UC Davis Health’s ability to collaborate with community organizations to join the digital platform and bring more services to vulnerable patients and make access to health care easier.

“As the statewide leader in telemedicine and digital health, UC Davis Health will continue to build on our medical center’s long history of reaching out to the most vulnerable, underserved populations in the region,” said David Lubarsky, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.S.A., CEO of UC Davis Health and vice chancellor of Human Health Sciences. “The patient is at the center of everything we do, and we must innovate and challenge conventional wisdom to truly deliver digital health equity to all our patients — no matter their circumstances.”

For decades, health disparities have been an ongoing U.S. public health challenge, especially for racial and ethnic minority populations. On average, racial and ethnic minorities are in poorer health, suffer worse health outcomes, and have higher morbidity and mortality rates than their white cohorts.

Underrepresented minority and low-income populations experience disproportionately high rates of preventable disease and premature death across many conditions.

Such disparities can result in severe medical, social and economic consequences, including increased mortality.

“Who has access to health services and quality care are issues we deeply care for at UC Davis Health,” said Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities and lead for the Digital Health Equity Program. “For underserved communities, there is little access to needed health services regard-less of location or point of entry.

“This funding helps address these health inequities and enables us to expand on our ability to further health care access for all patients.”