The Los Angeles Plaza Community Center (PCC), an early twentieth-century Los Angeles community center and clinic, published El Mexicano, a quarterly newsletter, from 1913 to 1925. The newsletter’s reports reveal how the PCC combined walk-in medical visits with broader efforts to address the overall wellness of its attendees. Available records, some with occasional clinical details, reveal the general spectrum of illnesses treated over a twelve-year span. Placed in today’s context, the medical care given at this center was simple and minimal. The social support it provided, however, was multifaceted. The center’s caring extended beyond providing medical attention to helping with education, nutrition, employment, transportation, and moral support. Thus, the social determinants of health (SDH), a prominent concern of present-day public health, was a concept already realized and practiced by these early twentieth-century Los Angeles Plaza community leaders. Such practices, although not yet nominally identified as SDH, had their beginnings in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century social activism movement aiming to mitigate the social ills and inequities of emerging industrial nations. The PCC was one of the pioneers in this effort. Its concerns and successes in this area were sophisticated enough to be comparable to our current intentions and aspirations.
Addressing the Social Determinants of Health: A Los Angeles Community Center’s Narrative from 1913 to 1925
Saty Satya-Murti, MD, FAAN, is a clinical neurologist and health policy consultant, with numerous publications in those fields. Following retirement from academic clinical practice and Medicare Medical Directorship for three Mid-West states, he has been able to spend time researching cognitive biases and the social underpinnings of clinical medicine and forensic sciences. He consults on healthcare coverage on a limited basis. His other interests are in grandparenting, solar cooking, and volunteering.
Jennifer Gutierrez played an integral part in saving La Plaza United Methodist Church from being acquired by the city of Los Angles and in establishing the Museum of Social Justice, where she now serves as Executive Director. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Williams College in Massachusetts, a Master of Divinity degree from Claremont School of Theology, and is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. Prior to her role at the museum, Jennifer served as the Director of Urban Ministry for the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church, consulting with urban churches throughout Southern California for strategic planning, problem solving, and tools to help them connect with their surrounding neighborhoods.
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Saty Satya-Murti, Jennifer Gutierrez; Addressing the Social Determinants of Health: A Los Angeles Community Center’s Narrative from 1913 to 1925. Southern California Quarterly 1 November 2019; 101 (4): 357–395. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/scq.2019.101.4.357
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