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Meeting the Demand for Health: Final Report from the California Future Health Workforce Commission

2019 | See the report.

California’s health system is facing a crisis, with rising costs and millions of Californians struggling to access the care they need. This growing challenge has many causes and will require bold action by the new governor, legislators, and a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the public and private sectors. At the core of this challenge is the simple fact that California does not have enough of the right types of health workers in the right places to meet the needs of its growing, aging, and increasingly diverse population.

The California Future Health Workforce Commission has spent nearly two years focused on meeting this challenge, issuing a new report with recommendations for closing California’s growing workforce gaps by 2030.

See the report and executive summary.

In many parts of the state, this crisis is already at hand: Seven million Californians, the majority of them Latino, African American, and Native American, already live in Health Professional Shortage Areas—a federal designation for counties experiencing shortfalls of primary care, dental care, or mental health care providers. These shortages are most severe in some of California’s largest and fastest-growing regions, including the Inland Empire, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin Valley, and in most rural areas.

As a generation of baby boomers retires—including a large percentage of the health workforce—and as living costs rise and the state’s production of health workers continues to lag growing demands, millions more Californians will find it difficult to access quality, affordable care. This looming crisis will be most acute in primary care, behavioral health, and among workers who care for older adults. In just 10 years, for example, California is projected to face a shortfall of more than 4,100 primary care clinicians and 600,000 home care workers, and will have only two-thirds of the psychiatrists it needs.

To adequately fill these gaps, the state must also overcome the growing mismatch between its existing workforce and the state’s increasingly diverse population. People of color will make up the majority of Californians by 2030, but they remain severely underrepresented in the health workforce. While Latinos are now nearly 40% of the state’s population, for example, they compose only 7% of physicians. More than seven million Californians have limited English proficiency and would benefit from multilingual providers—yet few are available.

The California Future Health Workforce Commission was created in 2017 by a group of the state’s leading health philanthropies to address this looming crisis—and to create a comprehensive action plan for building the health workforce California will need by 2030. The Commission’s final report includes a set of 27 detailed recommendations within three key strategies that will be necessary for: (1) increasing opportunities for all Californians to advance in the health professions, (2) aligning and expanding education and training, and (3) strengthening the capacity, retention, and effectiveness of health workers. Throughout its deliberations, the Commission has focused on the need to increase the diversity of the state’s health workforce, enable the workforce to better address health disparities, and incorporate new and emerging technologies.

See the report and executive summary and learn more about the Commission.

About the California Future Health Workforce Commission

The Commission was co-chaired by Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California (UC), which operates the largest health sciences education and training system in the nation and is a major health provider, and Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health, one of the state’s largest health systems and health employers. The 24 commissioners included prominent health, policy, workforce development, and education leaders in the state.

PHI Senior Investigator Kevin Barnett co-directed the Commission's management team and PHI staff helped to support day-to-day work of the Commission. PHI President and CEO Mary Pittman also served on the Primary Care and Prevention Subcommittee.