New Research Shows Neighborhoods Have a Major Influence on the Health of African-American, Latino Boys and Young Men
Unhealthy communities directly contribute to African-American and Latino boys suffering worse health outcomes than their white peers; Researchers point to need for comprehensive, community-based solutions.
OAKLAND, Calif., — New research funded by The California Endowment finds that African-American and Latino boys and young men are much more likely to experience poor health outcomes than white boys and young men. Most of these differences in health are directly related to the neighborhoods where they grow up.
To improve health outcomes for boys and young men, researchers suggest the need for systems-based solutions that are implemented at the community level.
“It’s not just that there’s a higher incidence of African-American and Latino children living in poverty,” said Susan Eaton, Research Director at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute at Harvard Law School. “It’s that poverty is generally harsher for African-American and Latino children.”
The Houston Institute research examined how neighborhoods where African-American and Latino children live and go to school create and exacerbate the poor health outcomes they experience.
RAND Corporation examined the racial and ethnic disparities for boys and men of color. While boys and young men generally suffer worse health outcomes than girls, RAND found that health and social outcomes for boys and young men of color are far worse than they are for white boys and young men.
For instance, African-American boys and young men are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Latino boys and young men are 4.1 times more likely to suffer from PTSD. Some of the greatest disparities in the RAND research were for African-American homicide-related death rates. Young African-American men have a homicide death rate at least 16 times greater than that of young white men; young Latino men have a homicide rate 5 times greater than that of young white men.
“Although there are odds working against boys and men of color, there is a growing body of research that identifies approaches that can improve those odds,” said Dr. Lois Davis, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation. “In other words, the unequal chances that boys and men of color face are not immutable and we know an increasing amount about how to improve their chances.”
A key theme of the research is whether or not the institutions that are meant to serve the health needs of boys and young men of color are actually successful in meeting them. For instance, the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at Drexel University found that trauma is seldom explored by the array of systems – schools, juvenile justice, courts, health care, mental health – assigned to help boys and young men of color. Even worse, those institutions often take a punitive approach to these young men at precisely the time when they need them the most.
“When young men suffer from trauma, their symptoms are interpreted as a sign that they are delinquents or sociopaths rather than a sign of physical and emotional traumatic injury,” said Dr. John Rich, Director of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at Drexel University. “The very systems that are charged with caring for their trauma inadvertently reinforce their trauma rather than address it.”
PolicyLink found that the types of policy and systems changes needed to improve communities can also shift the trajectory for boys and young men of color as well. “We can build a better young man by cleaning the air he breathes, improving the quality of the vegetables carried at the stores where he shops, and making his commute to work faster and cheaper,” said Joe Brooks, Vice President for Civic Engagement at PolicyLink. “Policy makers, community activists and government officials must view the health of a community not in individual parts, but as an unbroken whole, made up of individual, but virtually inseparable parts.”
Their recommendations include:
-- Making health care services easier and more convenient to access in
-- Ensuring that strategies for improving health address the ways in
which neighborhoods limit the opportunities for healthy behavior like
physical activity or healthy eating;
-- Reforming systemic factors in schools, in health systems and in
workforce systems that push children out of them.
“This research shows that the health of African-American and Latino boys stems from their neighborhoods, their schools, their environments being unhealthy,” said Robert Phillips, Director of Health and Human Services for The California Endowment. “According to the research, place and policy clearly matter to the health of these boys and young men. If we truly want to address the health issues they face, California needs to put its support behind public policies and programs that advocate for comprehensive, community-based solutions.”
This new research will inform The Endowment’s 10-year strategic initiative – Building Healthy Communities. The work will provide targeted recommendation aimed at improving health outcomes of boys and young men of color in 14 communities in California: Boyle Heights, Central/West Fresno, Central Long Beach, Central Santa Ana, City Heights, Coachella, Del Norte, East Oakland, East Salinas, Richmond, South Figueroa Corridor, South Kern County, South Sacramento and Southwest/East Merced.
“Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys of Color” is the result of combined, independent research studies from RAND Corporation, PolicyLink, The Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at Drexel University and The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. For more information about “Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys of Color” and to read the full reports from RAND, PolicyLink, the Houston Institute and Drexel, visit www.calendow.org/bmoc.
The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California. For more information on The California Endowment, visit www.calendow.org.