The People Our Members Serve


The Watts riot of 1965 marked a turning point in South Los Angeles. Things went from bad to worse as the next two decades saw the area’s manufacturing base with its higher paying unionized jobs, local merchants, and many black middle-class residents leave.

Widespread unemployment and more poverty took their place. What had once been an area celebrated as a mecca for jazz, artists, writers, and African American culture and business successes in the West was fading into history.1

Today, South Los Angeles is an area that spreads over 50 square miles, south of downtown, and it is home to nearly three-quarters of a million people. Bounded loosely on the north by the Santa Monica Freeway, the south by the Century Freeway, the west by La Brea Avenue, and Alameda Street on the east, it continues to be home to a blend of neighborhoods with footprints to both the past and the future.

South Los Angeles’ Population Shift
Four Health Districts in South Los Angeles
Demographics: Our Patients’ Health Disparities
Key Health Indicators
Leading Causes of Death

South Los Angeles’ Population Shift

South Los Angeles, which was once home to the largest African American community in the western United States, has been transformed by the arrival of Mexican and Central American immigrants. In 1990, South Los Angeles was 51 percent African American and 47 percent Latino; in 2010, Latinos made up 67 percent of the population and African Americans 31 percent.2

South Los Angeles has the largest percentage of African American and Latino residents of any service planning area within Los Angeles County. Forty-five percent of the county’s African American population and 17 percent of Latinos reside in this area.3

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Four Health Districts in South Los Angeles

South Los Angeles lies in the county’s service planning area (SPA) 6, which is further divided into four health districts:4

South Health District:
Florence (90001), Watts (90002), Willowbrook (90059), and West Compton/Los Angeles County (90061)

Southeast Health District:
South Central Los Angeles (90011) and Humphrey (90003)

Southwest Health District:
Adams (90016), Jefferson Park (90018), Exposition Park (90007, 90037), Crenshaw District (90008), Leimert Park (90062), Hyde Park (90043, 90047), and South Vermont (90044)

Compton Health District:
Compton (90220, 90221, 90222), Lynwood (90262), and Paramount (90723)

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Demographics: Our Patients’ Health Disparities5

The South Los Angeles and surrounding communities that we serve number about 1.1 million people. Compared with other residents throughout Los Angeles County and the country, the people of South Los Angeles were

  SPA 6 (% of population) LA County (% of population) US (% of population)
More likely to be Latino 67.7 48.1 16.3
More likely to be African American 28.5 8.5 12.8
Less likely to be white 2.0 28.9 64.8
Less likely to be Asian 1.6 14.3 5.2

They were also:

  • Younger
  • Poorer
  • Less likely to be a high school graduate
  • More likely to have children
  • Twice as likely to be unemployed and looking for a job
  • More likely to be single
  • More likely to be foreign born
  • More likely to speak Spanish at home
  • More likely to spend more than 30% of their income on housing
  • Less likely to find easy access to fresh produce
  • Much less likely to say their neighborhood is safe
  • Less likely to feel that local play areas are safe for their children

In SPA 6, 31.6 percent of the population is under age 18 compared with 24.1 percent nationally. More than twice as many residents live 100 percent below the federal poverty level (31.1% vs. 15.9%). The 100% FPL for all of Los Angeles County is 18 percent. SPA 6 is the largest low-income urban area in the western United States.

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Key Health Indicators6

South Los Angeles residents also were more likely to score poorly on key indicators of good health. People living in SPA 6 were:

  • More likely to be uninsured
  • More likely to have no usual source of care for themselves or their children
  • More likely to have difficulty gaining access to health care
  • More likely not to be able to afford dental care for themselves or their children
  • More likely to say they failed to fill a prescription recently because they could not pay
  • More likely to have children whose BMI (body mass index) scores rank in the obese category
  • More likely to die from heart disease
  • More likely to die from a stroke
  • More likely to be a teen parent
  • More at risk for major depression
  • Five times more likely than the national average to be a homicide victim
  • More likely to die of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers
  • More likely to die from AIDS-related complications
  • Twice as likely to become infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea
  • More likely to be diagnosed with tuberculosis
  • Almost half as likely to have been screened for osteoporosis (women 65 and older)
  • Less likely to have been vaccinated for influenza during the past year if they 65 or older
  • Half as likely to have been vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) (girls 13–17)

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SPA 6 contains 16 percent of the Los Angeles County homeless population and 17 percent of the county’s homeless persons in families. Further, South Los Angeles has the highest percentage of its homeless population who are unsheltered in the county (91% vs. 83%).7

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Leading Causes of Death

In Los Angeles County, SPA 6 has the highest morbidity and mortality rates and the highest rate of breast cancer. Compared to other Los Angeles County residents, the people of SPA 6 were more likely to die by homicide or from diabetes:

  Leading Cause Premature Cause*
Cause LA County SPA 6 LA County SPA 6
Heart disease 1 1 1 2
Stroke 2 2 8 5
Lung cancer 3 5 5  
COPD 4      
Influenza 5      
Diabetes 6 4 7 4
Alzheimer’s 7      
Colorectal cancer 8      
Breast cancer 9   10  
Homicide 10 3 2 1
Motor vehicle accident     3 3
Suicide     4  
Liver disease     6  
Drug overdose     9  

*Premature death is death that occurs before the age of 75.

SPA 6 has the highest percentage (62%) of women over age 40 living at or below 200% of the FPL. Nearly 29 percent of women in the area are uninsured.8

The need for more access to preventive, primary, and managed care throughout South Los Angeles is clear.

See A View of the People Our Members Serve.

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Next: Southside Coalition Members — About Us

The Southside Coalition Story
The South Los Angeles Safety Net
How the Southside Coalition Is Strengthening the Local Safety Net

1RJ Smith. 2007.; USC/Community Coalition; by Jennifer Medina.
3Annie Park et al. 2008.
4Critical Condition: Examining the Scope of Medical Services in South Los Angeles. 2007.
5LADPH. 2013 (March). Key Indicators of Health by Service Planning Area.
7David B. Howard. 2008.
8Los Angeles County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. 2012; LADPH (2007). Los Angeles County Health Survey.