Research Centers in Minority Institutions

Research Centers in Minority Institutions



The Charles Drew University Service Area: Profile of an Urban Underserved Community photo_community4.jpg

The communities surrounding CDU consist of an urban population with traditionally high levels of unmet need for health care. Los Angeles County is the most heavily populated, most ethnically and socioeconomically diverse county in the nation. The population of Los Angeles County (9,519,338) is larger than 42 States and constitutes almost 4% of the U.S. population. Los Angeles County is the prototypical Western U.S. mega city. This region of the Western United States contains the fastest growing urban communities in the nation. Challenges encountered in Los Angeles can therefore be generalized to large segments of the U.S. population.

The King-Drew Medical Center (KDMC) is located in South Central Los Angeles County, a classic urban, multicultural, socioeconomically disadvantaged community, which includes the well-known communities of Compton and Watts. The medical service area of KDMC is one of five health clusters of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (the Southwest Service Cluster). It is comprised of 248 contiguous census tracts covering 124.2 square miles, and is home to more than 1.4 million individuals. If this service area were considered an independent municipality, it would be the fifth largest city in the United States (after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia).

The KDMC service area has the highest concentration of racial/ethnic minorities and is the most socioeconomically disadvantaged community in Los Angeles County. The racial/ethnic makeup of KDMC’s service area is 60% Hispanic, 25% African American, 12% non-Hispanic white, and 5% Asian American. In addition to the largely Hispanic and African-American composition of the KDMC service area, the immediately adjacent communities of Gardena (30% Asian American) and Wilshire Center (32% Asian American) provide immediate access to Asian-American populations as well. Nearly 32% of the population in the South Central region lives below the federal poverty level and nearly 46% have less than a high school education. The median age is 25.6 years with a median family income of $17,597. Compared with Los Angeles County overall, this area has significantly fewer physicians and hospital beds per capita and a significantly greater overall age-adjusted mortality rate. This population has high rates of serious chronic and acute health problems that are recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as national priorities. Notably, residents of the area have historically had sub-optimal access to state of the art health care technology, evidence guided disease prevention and health promotion activities, clinical research studies, and clinical trials and as a consequence have not benefited from such efforts.

Demographic and Health Indicators in Charles Drew University
Service Area vs. L.A., CA, and the Nation


CDU Service Area

L.A. County




% Minorities (Hispanics/ African Americans) 54%/34% 45%/10% 31%/6% 12%/13%
% Below 100% Federal Poverty Level 35% 20% 19% 15%

HEALTH STATUS (Prevalence, %)

Poor or Fair Health 32 21% N/A 8.9
Obesity 23.9 16.7    
Adult Sedentary Behavior 49.7 40.8    
Adult Smoking 19.1 18.1    


Diabetes 37.2 21.7 12 ~13
CAD 242 187    
Lung Cancer 48.1 36.9    
Child death rate (ages 1-17) 41 23    


Uninsured Adults 44% 34% 23% 18%
Uninsured Children 29% 18% 16% 12%
No regular source of care 33% 25% N/A N/A
Difficulty getting medical care 44% 35% N/A N/A
SOURCE: Los Angeles County Health Department, Health District Profiles, 2000-01; Kaiser Foundation State Health Facts, 1998; U.S. Census, 2000