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What’s Working to Help Kids Across America Eat Healthy?

Mar 9, 2016, 9:00 AM, Posted by Tina Kauh, Victoria Brown

Healthy Eating Research expands its commitment to equity through a new funding opportunity that reserves awards for innovative studies focused on rural, American Indian and Asian/Pacific Islander populations.

A boy helps his father select salad from a supermarket produce section.

The students at Native American Community Academy, a member of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, believed their school should serve healthy lunches that incorporated foods indigenous to the Navajo culture. So, they set out to turn their idea into a reality.

The students had an ultimate goal in mind: convince their principal to hire a company that would provide these healthier, more traditional meals. But, first, they had to prove that this type of food service could be done.

They started with the basics. With a budget of no more than $2 per person, students headed to a local grocery store and purchased ingredients for a meal they would prepare on their own and serve to their teachers and administrators to demonstrate that offering healthy Native American food at school is both feasible and affordable.

Their menu for the day: vegetarian chili with beans, blue corn meal mush (a traditional Navajo dish), an organic fruit cup and a dish they called the “Beez Kneez,” which had squash, corn, green chili, garlic and onions. The meal received rave reviews. Not only did the principal agree to find a new food service company, she put the students in charge of the task.

This is just one of many stories that reinforce the important role schools play in teaching kids about nutrition and offering healthy meals, snacks and drinks. Among kids in underserved communities (like the students at Native American Community Academy), the role of schools is especially critical.

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Expanding Horizons for Rural Young Men of Color

Sep 8, 2014, 1:55 PM, Posted by Maisha Simmons

An older student assists a younger student in school.

When we first began the Forward Promise initiative, we envisioned building the capacity and impact of organizations across the country working with boys and young men of color from every type of community and background. We wanted to identify and support a cohort of grantees that were diverse in their approach, in their geography, and in the racial, ethnic and cultural experiences of the young people that they supported. Once we began doing this work, it didn’t take long to realize we were falling short.

The simple truth is that the majority of organizations who applied for Forward Promise that had demonstrated success and were ready to expand were located in major cities. Few applicants were in the rural beltway that stretches across the Southern United States, from Alabama to Arizona. It would be easy to assume that there weren’t many young men of color there or that there was not much innovation or capacity to support young men of color in that region. But you know what they say about assumptions ...

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How to Advance Minority Health? Change the Look of Health Care.

Apr 30, 2014, 2:00 PM

Some people assume that promoting diversity and combating health disparities means giving preferential treatment to minorities over Whites. However, these pursuits simply mean providing equitable opportunities and a health care system that is responsive to everyone. Education studies continuously show that promoting diversity and reducing discrimination benefits all students. Regarding health care, these pursuits may mean life or death.

The percentage of black physicians has stayed roughly unchanged since the early 1900s. The percentage of Black and Latino professors at research-intensive university shows a similar pattern. I suggest that reducing health disparities and changing our current culture of health is contingent on more effectively integrating minorities into health professions and research positions.

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How to Address Disparities? Develop Local Leadership, Listen to Communities.

Apr 30, 2014, 9:00 AM

When I was first asked to consider this question, I pondered the issues by describing theoretical approaches, including the need to address social determinants, use a social-ecologic framework, and take a life course perspective. I threw in the need to use evidence-based practices and research. I gave this first draft to someone and asked ... So what do you think? She very politely asked: Are you in outer space? 

I continue to believe that addressing inequality in our country requires that we recognize, understand, and commit to changing its root causes which include racism, inadequate affordable and safe housing, inadequate access to quality education (pre-to post graduate), and grossly uneven wealth distribution. These are deeply rooted in our political and economic structures and must be fundamentally changed if we truly want to build a culture of equality and health for all. 

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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Shift the Cost-Access-Quality Axis.

Apr 29, 2014, 10:30 AM

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Italo M. Brown, MPH, a rising fourth-year medical student at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Brown holds a BS from Morehouse College and an MPH from Boston University, School of Public Health. He is an alumnus of the Health Policy Scholars Program at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

In our domestic health care system, we nurture the drive to improve patient outcomes, and apply evidence-based knowledge to solve contemporary health care challenges. Yet, studies have demonstrated that minorities are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions, and on average are less likely to receive ongoing care/management of their comorbidities. In addition, public health experts have asserted that social determinants of health (e.g., education level, family income, social capital) directly impact the minority community, and effectively convolute the pathway to care. 

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How to Advance Minority Health? A Diverse, Culturally Competent Health Care Workforce.

Apr 29, 2014, 9:00 AM

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Michelle L. Odlum, BSN, MPH, EdD, a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University School of Nursing, responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Odlum has more than ten years of experience as a disparities researcher. She is a recipient of an RWJF New Connections Junior Investigator award.

As a health disparities researcher, my health promotion and disease prevention efforts are rooted in sociocultural aspects of health. This approach is critical to improved outcomes. In fact, when socioeconomic factors are equalized, race, ethnicity, and culture remain contributing factors to adverse minority health. I have come to understand that the key to combating health disparities lies heavily in cultural understanding. A diverse, culturally competent health care workforce is essential to health equity.

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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Improve Medical Literacy, Take a Holistic Approach.

Apr 28, 2014, 2:45 PM

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Cheryl C. Onwu, BS, a public health graduate student at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Onwu is a Health Policy Scholar at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

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A doctor informed an African American male that he has diabetes mellitus, and medication was prescribed. However, the doctor did not mention the extent of the dangers involved in having diabetes, or “the sugars.” Additionally, the doctor did not explain the detrimental effects if the patient failed to follow the prescription regimens and other recommendations.

Some of the challenges faced by minorities include lack of medical literacy, which can affect their overall health. Clear communication between a health care provider and his or her patients is important, so patients are cognizant of their health status, the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, potential threats to well-being, and how to control health problems.

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How to Advance Minority Health? A Successful, Sustainable Effort to Promote Healthy Choices in Miami.

Apr 28, 2014, 1:00 PM

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Lillian Rivera, RN, MSN, PhD, administrator/health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Rivera is an alumnus of the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program.

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In order to address this question, it is important to identify the areas within your jurisdiction where there are identified health disparities and to develop initiatives with those needs in mind.

Miami-Dade County in Florida is one of the few counties in the United States that is “minority majority,” meaning the minority makes up the majority of the population. More than two-thirds of the 2.5 million residents are Hispanic; 19 percent are Black; more than 51.2 percent are foreign-born and most of  them speak a language other than English at home (mostly Spanish and Creole);  19.4 percent live below poverty level; and 29.8 percent of the population  under age 65 (more than 700,000 individuals) is uninsured .

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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? There are Endless Opportunities.

Apr 28, 2014, 9:00 AM

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Adrian L. Ware, MSc, a third year graduate student in public health at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Ware is a Health Policy Scholar at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.* 

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According to the World Health Organization, “a good health system delivers quality services to all people, when and where they need them. The exact configuration of services varies from country to country, but in all cases requires a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; well maintained facilities and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies.” This definition will be used as the gold standard for this discussion of service toward minority communities. It is important to underscore that the basis for this discussion is centered on public health infrastructure. Public health is the promotion of health at a community level by the government. 

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How to Address Disparities? Recognize Incarceration as a Major Threat to Health.

Apr 27, 2014, 12:00 PM

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Elizabeth Barnert, MD, MPH, MS, a pediatrician and clinical instructor in the UCLA Department of Pediatrics, responds to the question, “What does the country need to do to address disparities and build a culture of health that includes all people?” Barnert is an RWJF Clinical Scholar at UCLA.

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While there is much to be done to improve equity and access to health care for all Americans, I believe that the most important strides in health we can make will occur by directly addressing the social and environmental determinants of health. Racial/ethnic and economic inequities strongly play out in the criminal justice system. This has important implications for health. Incarceration itself is a determinant of health.

Breaking cycles of incarceration has the potential to dramatically improve the health of entire communities, setting individuals and families on trajectories that are healthier, safer, more fulfilling, and more productive. To address incarceration, America must recognize that the patterns of mass incarceration prevalent in many disadvantaged communities perpetuate poor health outcomes, further widen social inequities, and often lead to further incarcerations within and across generations. Currently, 1 in 28 U.S. children, and 1 in 9 African American children, have a parent who is incarcerated. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for non-violent offenses. By virtue of having an incarcerated parent, these children are at much higher risk of themselves becoming incarcerated at least once during their life course. 

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