Category Archives: Voices from the Field
Stress and Family Support – Two Important Social Determinants of Health for Hispanic/Latino Communities
Rosa M. Gonzalez-Guarda, PhD, RN, CPH, FAAN, is an assistant professor at the University of Miami, School of Nursing & Health Studies and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholars program. On Friday, December 5, she will be a panelist at the RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.
My research has focused on understanding and addressing behavioral and mental health disparities experienced by Hispanic/Latino communities. Although I initiated my research looking at substance abuse, violence, HIV and mental health as separate conditions that often co-occurred in marginalized communities, I soon realized that these conditions were just symptoms of an underlying phenomena— something my colleagues and I refer to as the Syndemic factor.
We have been studying the social determinants of the Syndemic factor in hopes of developing culturally tailored interventions that can potentially address multiple behavioral and mental health outcomes for the Hispanic/Latino community. From this research we have learned that interventions that address stress and family support offer promise for this community.
Harry J. Heiman, MD, MPH, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellows program. He practiced clinical family medicine for more than 20 years and is currently director of health policy at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine. On December 5, Heiman will be a panelist when RWJF holds its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.
The importance of place and geography and its impact on health is not a new concept in public health, but one that has been largely overlooked until recently. John Snow’s map of the London cholera outbreak in 1854, a precursor of today’s more sophisticated geo-spatial mapping, reminds us of the powerful impact public health has always had through assessment and intervention at the neighborhood level. Health care not only drains a disproportionate share of our resources, it also gets a disproportionate share of our attention. Access to affordable, quality health care is necessary, but not sufficient. While important and often life-saving to individuals, it is a relatively weak determinant of population health.
A large body of research has demonstrated the importance of health behaviors, with almost half of all deaths attributable to tobacco, diet and sedentary lifestyle, alcohol and substance use, firearms, and sexual behavior. What has not been adequately understood or discussed is the influence of the social and economic environment on health behaviors. People in lower social classes are more likely to have unhealthy behaviors—something that is strongly associated with the lack of available healthy choices and the impact of increased psychosocial stress. The impact of stress is life-long, occurring not only in childhood, but prenatally, leading to what some experts refer to as inherited disadvantage.
Maya M. Rockeymoore, PhD, is president of the Center for Global Policy Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to making policy work for people and their environments, and director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). On December 5, RWJF will hold its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.
When I think of the resilience of disadvantaged communities disproportionately affected by health disparities, I think of the Arabbers of Baltimore, Md. They are not Arabic speaking people from the Middle East or North Africa, but scrappy African American entrepreneurs who started selling fresh foods in Baltimore’s underserved communities in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Their relevance continued into the modern era as supermarkets divested from low-income neighborhoods, leaving struggling residents with few options aside from unhealthy fast food and carry-out restaurants. Driving horses with carts laden with colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, Arabbers sold their produce to residents literally starving for nutritious food.
What’s Your “Street Race-Gender”? Why We Need Separate Questions on Hispanic Origin and Race for the 2020 Census
Nancy López, PhD, is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico (UNM). She co-founded and directs the Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at the UNM. On December 5, RWJF will hold its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.
How should we measure race and ethnicity for the 2020 Census? How can health disparities researchers engage in productive dialogues with federal, state and local agencies regarding the importance of multiple measures of race and ethnicity for advancing health equity for all?
If we depart from the premise that the purpose of race, ethnicity, gender and other policy-relevant data collection is not simply about complying with bureaucratic mandates, but rather it is about establishing communities of practice that work in concert toward the creation of pathways (from harmonized and contextualized data collection, analysis and reporting) to effective policy solutions and interventions that address the pressing needs of diverse communities across the country, then we have planted the seeds of a culture of health equity and social justice.
Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN, is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholars program. On December 5, RWJF will explore this topic further at its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more about it.
Resilience is not just an individual character trait. There are resilient families, communities, and societies.
Within the individual, there are resilient organs, cells, and genetic expressions. Although many people who experience health disparities are resilient on the individual level—they are optimistic, committed, loving, bright—the groups of people who suffer from health disparities (such as non-English speakers, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in poverty) draw on their personal resilience daily, but suffer from reduced contact with the resilient potential of communities and society overall.
To me, building a Culture of Health means developing multiple layers of resilient possibilities so that each person’s cells, organs, families, communities, and society are able to respond to stressors, challenges, and opportunities with resilient potential.
Daniel E. Dawes, JD, is a health care attorney and executive director of government relations, health policy and external affairs at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia; a lecturer of health law and policy at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute; and senior advisor for the Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for Health Disparities Research. On December 5, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will explore this topic further at its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more about it.
With growing diversity relative to ethnicity and culture in our country, and with the failure to reduce or eliminate risk factors that can influence health and health outcomes, it is imperative that we identify, develop, promulgate, and implement health laws, policies, and programs that will advance health equity among vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities.
Every year, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publishes its National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, which tracks inequities in health services in the United States. Since the report was first published in 2003, the findings have consistently shown that while we have made improvements in quality, we have not been as successful in reducing disparities in health care. This dichotomy has persisted, despite the fact that health care spending continues to rise. In fact, health care costs have been escalating at an unsustainable rate, reaching an estimated 17.3 percent of our gross domestic product in 2009, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Despite these high costs, the delivery system remains fragmented and inequities in the quality of health care persist. The impact of disparities in health status and access for racial and ethnic minorities is quite alarming.
Jennifer Schroeder, Stephanie M. DeLong, Shannon Heintz, Maya Nadimpalli, Jennifer Yourkavitch, and Allison Aiello, PhD, MS, professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program. This blog was developed under the guidance of Aiello’s social epidemiology seminar course.
Ebola is an infectious disease that the world has seen before in more moderate outbreaks in Africa. As the devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa has taken a global turn, fear, misinformation and long-standing stigma and discrimination have acted as major contributors to the epidemic and response. Stigma is a mark upon someone, whether visible or invisible, that society judgmentally acts upon. Ebola has become a significant source of stigma among West Africans and the Western world.
In many ways, the source of this discrimination can be traced back to the legacy of colonialism and the western approach to infectious disease response in Africa. The history of foreign humanitarian aid has sometimes dismissed cultural traditions and beliefs. As a consequence, trust in westerners has eroded and has been compounded by a disconnect between western humanitarian aid approaches and a lack of overall infrastructure investment on the part of African national health systems. This is apparent in the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Some don’t actually think that Ebola exists; instead they believe that it is a hoax carried out by the Western world. All of these factors are facilitating the rapid spread of the disease.
Chris Love, MMin, MSLE, is the program director for the Arkansas Community Foundation, which served as the lead foundation for the Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future (PIN) project, Planning for Workforce Development in Geriatric and Long-Term Care.
As PIN holds its final national meeting this week, the Human Capital Blog is featuring posts from PIN partners about the program’s legacy of encouraging innovative collaborative responses to challenges facing the nursing workforce in local communities. PIN is an initiative of the Northwest Health Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
The PIN journey with Arkansas Community Foundation and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), among other partners, has been one of both providence and progress. It was in the fall of 2008 that we were approached by leaders from UAMS with the idea for us to become partners with them in this endeavor.
At first, the idea seemed daunting. Then, after some consideration by our senior leadership, it became an open door for opportunity—an opportunity to leverage the structure and resources of our foundation to complement the expertise of our colleagues and friends at UAMS to address a major issue of mutual concern: the aging population in our state and the significant shortage of adequately prepared nurses to care for that population. Not long into the partnership, our organizations realized this would be a match made in heaven.
Joy P. Deupree, PhD, MSN, APRN-BC, is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama (UAB) School of Nursing and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellow. She is engaged in community participatory research studies on health literacy. For 12 years, Deupree has taught a campus-wide elective on health literacy and has been a guest lecturer on the topic at the UAB schools of medicine, dentistry and public health. She founded the Alliance of International Nurses for Improved Health Literacy and established a nursing special interest group for the Health Literacy Annual Research Conference.
Health literacy is extremely important to building a culture of health. Basic understanding of health care information is essential if people are to live healthy lives, but an alarming number of American adults report poor understanding of health care instructions.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion.While progress has been made, the work has really just begun. We can no longer blame the patient for poor health literacy, and we should keep in mind that limited health literacy affects us as all and contributes to increased health care costs.
The IOM report defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” These skills involve not only reading ability but also numeracy. Failure to develop the necessary skills to manage health care can cost millions of dollars as well as add to human suffering and even cause death.
Tamara G.J. Leech, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, and a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections program grantee. She is principal investigator of a William T. Grant Scholar Award, “Pockets of Peace: Investigating Urban Neighborhoods Resilient to Adolescent Violence.”
I am particularly excited about the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting theme this year—Healthography! My research team has spent the past two years examining “cold spots” of urban youth violence. In other words, we have been analyzing areas where—regardless of the increased risk for violence—violence is not occurring or is rarely occurring. This is a departure from the dominant form of research on “hot spots” of violence, or any disease for that matter.
For some, this approach has been puzzling. It’s not immediately obvious that the determinants of cold spots are not simply the opposite of the determinants of hot spots. However, our evidence clearly suggests that the things that help to make a location healthy go well beyond the things that protect a location from high rates of illness.