Urban Health Watch: Creating Pathways to Hope

By Reza Corinne Clifton
Editor, UrbanHealthWatch.net

PROVIDENCE, RI – Creating pathways to hope. If I had to summarize what I’ve done or tried to do as a community organizer, journalist, and educator, that is probably how I would describe it. That is also one way to view what we are doing at UrbanHealthWatch.net. And contrary to what some may have thought after the presidential elections of November, 2008, there is no better time for hope.

According to data recently released by Rhode Island Kids Count, the median household income in Providence fell in the decade between 1990 and 2000 from $28,894 to $26,867; between 2004 and 2008 their analysis reveals an increase in the cost of rent. The Kids Count numbers also reveal a resurgence in Food Stamp/SNAP participation and in the number of children participating in the School Breakfast program between 2007 and 2008, and their health indicators show a rise in asthma hospitalizations, women with delayed prenatal care, and births by 15 to 17-year olds. According to the same Kids Count data, the income drop in Providence between 1990 and 2000 occurred when the state as a whole saw an improvement, while the state’s asthma hospitalization rate remained the same between 2007 and 2008 – 2.6 points lower in 2008 than in Providence.

Of course, if you have seen any of the 2007 Minority Health Fact Sheets published by the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH), the existence of differences in medical care and well-being – between residents in one area compared to another or of one ethnic group to another – is not a new concept to swallow. DOH data, for instance, show that African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Asian/Pacific Islanders have fewer adults participating sufficiently in light to moderate exercise than the state average, and fewer than Whites. Their analysis also revealed that higher percentages of all minority mothers receive delayed prenatal care compared to the overall state and White women, African Americans have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in RI including HIV/AIDS, and more Hispanic/Latino adults reported having no health insurance at a higher rate than other minority populations and the state as a whole.

Frustrating news, isn’t it? And even if you have not seen these data sheets, it is likely that you have heard about some of these facts and about the “health disparities” they reveal. Critical MASS, a Boston-based program connected to the Center for Community Health, Education, Research and Service defines health disparities as “differences in health status between different groups.” But it is important to keep in mind that these differences do not have to be permanent. And that’s where the notion of hope – and action – enter the picture

At Urban Health Watch, we know that change is not only possible, but it’s also in our hands. But our job is not simply to walk around aware of the possibilities; our work is centered on creating pathways to hope. That is why we recently posted updates about free prostate screenings, free mammograms, extra discounts for food stamp users, and accessing free medications. We’ve also posted news about the New England Regional Minority Health Conference, a three-day conference coming in October that is all about achieving equity in healthcare. And there is more being added every week.

We know that the “facts” about minority health and health disparities can get repetitive and disheartening, especially when they are shared without recommendations for personal or community improvements. But there are reasons to feel and maintain hope; everyday, individuals are committing to personal improvement, businesses and organizations are coming to the table, and communities and advocates are demanding better policies to deal with cultural sensitivity, service to people of all income-levels, and accountability by leadership. Join the discussions. Create the solutions. Urban Health Watch wants to hear from you.

For more data published by RI Kids Count, visit http://www.rikidscount.org. For more on minority health and health disparities in RI, visit http://www.health.ri.gov/chic/minority.

*** Other great links:

– The New England Regional Minority Health Conference, http://www.nermhc.com.
– Critical MASS for Eliminating Health Disparities, http://www.enddisparities.org

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