New research from the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center shows that the United States is falling behind its global peers when it comes to guarantees for key constitutional rights. “The new decade begins with clear constitutional gaps that place the United States in a global minority” for failing to guarantee rights to healthcare and gender equality, said Jody Heymann, founder of the nonprofit policy research center. “Globally, the U.S. now lags 165 other nations with stronger constitutional protections for women. And the U.S. is absent from the 142 countries globally … that provide some degree of constitutional protection for the right to health,” said Heymann, a distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA. Worldwide, the center’s researchers found a considerable expansion of protections over the past 50 years but noted that millions are still left without human rights guarantees, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination. Groups experiencing the greatest gaps in rights guarantees include migrants, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. To produce the report, researchers analyzed the constitutions of all 193 United Nations member states. “Constitutions help shape social norms and send clear messages about who matters and what nations value,” Heymann said. The report is now available as an online resource featuring policy briefs, maps and downloadable data as well as the book “Advancing Equality,” available for download at UC Press. The book’s authors, Heymann, Amy Raub and Aleta Sprague, also wrote an op-ed for CNN arguing that it’s time for the United States to guarantee gender equality by enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
Sandra Rodriguez of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services leads a training session on the prevention of suicide. Photo by Mary Braswell
Students in UCLA Luskin’s undergraduate program came together Jan. 9 to gain a better understanding of suicide and practice ways to identify risk and offer a lifeline. Sandra Rodriguez of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ Suicide Prevention Center led the training session, part of the undergraduate program’s community impact requirement. Among Americans between ages 15 and 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, after car accidents, Rodriguez said. Despite the stigma that surrounds mental illness, many people contemplating suicide are relieved when asked to share their feelings, she added. Empathy is key when approaching someone exhibiting warning signs. “As helpers, we need to be able to sit in that dark place with them, to not judge those emotions, to not try to offer quick fixes,” she said. “Unless we really get in touch with why they want to die in the first place, we’re not going to get to the point where we’re turning them to the side of life.” Understanding suicide is valuable for those seeking careers in public health policy, research or outreach. For the students at the training session, it was also personal. Many said they knew someone who had committed suicide or made an attempt, and some shared their struggles with trying to provide real help to those in need. Rodriguez offered practical advice and stressed that people offering support should protect themselves by setting clear boundaries. She also shared several suicide prevention resources, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Teens Helping Teens, Know the Signs and the My3 app.
Dulce Vasquez, a second-year MPP student at UCLA Luskin, has been appointed to the El Pueblo/Olvera Street board of commissioners by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Vasquez said she feels a personal connection to Olvera Street, which bridges the divide between her American and Mexican identities. “It was the physical incarnation of my being,” she said during an interview withUnivision. As a commissioner, Vasquez hopes to better utilize space, promote Latino entrepreneurship, stay in step with downtown Los Angeles development, and incorporate social media technology into the vendors’ day-to-day operations. “Social media is super important for the growth of these small businesses. Yelp, Etsy, TripAdvisor, Instagram — we want to make sure they all have accounts and know how to use them, how to sell their goods,” she told Univision. Vasquez emphasized the importance of sharing the culture and history of Latinx people in Los Angeles. “We didn’t just arrive! We’ve been here for 200 years and we’ll be here for the next 200 and we need to teach our culture,” she said in the Univision interview. On Olvera Street’s legacy, she said, “I see it as the Ellis Island of Los Angeles, where people came through, gathered, created their livelihood.” Vasquez has a track record of promoting civic engagement. She is director of strategic partnerships at Arizona State University and has also served as managing director of Zócalo Public Square. Vasquez will also be on the March 3, 2020, ballot, running for a seat on the state Democratic Central Committee for Assembly District 53. — Myrka Vega