WashU: Community Partnership Key to Raising Awareness of Health Disparities

from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) Friday Letter, March 14, 2017:

An academic-community partnership in St. Louis has raised awareness of health disparities and shows promise of reducing those disparities, according to a report from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

For the Sake of All was established in 2013 to use civic education as a strategy for improving developmental and health outcomes in the St. Louis region. In 2014 it issued six major recommendations for reducing health disparities, such as investing in early-childhood development.

Recommendations prompted action, such as the establishment of a program to provide college savings accounts for kindergartners. The project took on increased resonance after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson in August 2014, just months after the report was released. For the Sake of All was a significant source of information for the Ferguson Commission, which was established to address issues that were raised by the shooting and in its aftermath.

The report said the project has succeeded in influencing public understanding of disparities like the 18-year gap in life expectancy between two nearby ZIP codes in the region, which has been widely cited since the project reported it.

“It seems clear that For the Sake of All has raised awareness and encouraged some action in the St. Louis community regarding the social determinants of health and health disparities,” wrote Dr. Jason Purnell, an associate professor at the Brown School, who led the effort and was the lead author of the report. He said the project could help other cities that face similar issues.

“What St. Louis may offer in efforts like For the Sake of All is a blueprint for a way forward,” he concluded.

The report was published in December in a special edition of the journal Urban Education that focused on For the Sake of All.

St. Louis American article on racism and real estate in STL, by Aimee VonBokel

Aimee VonBokel’s February 23, 2017 article, Real estate and racism in St. Louis, reveals the history of housing segregation in St. Louis through the story of one house at 5117 Wells Avenue on St. Louis’s near-north side and the families of two St. Louisans who lived there: Leo, a white man whose family owned and lived in the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, and Claudia, an African American woman who rented the property from the 1950s until 2005.

The article explores the migration of African Americans in the early 1950s from a near-bursting downtown St. Louis to the less populated near-north side and the white flight to the St. Louis suburbs that followed. It describes how developers used race-restrictive covenants to keep neighborhoods racially segregated and how the redlining of racially mixed neighborhoods reduced property values, making it impossible to obtain mortgages. Rent from properties in these neighborhoods was transferred from African American, working-class city residents to white suburban homeowners, leaving our city with the deeply divided metropolitan areas we see today. According to VonBokel, “Racism is not just about individual decisions or hateful feelings. Racism is about financial incentives that are built into policy, and thus, invisible. What remain visible are only the effects.”

Read the full article.

Read the For the Sake of All Discussion Guide and Action Toolkit on how to work toward quality neighborhoods for all in St. Louis.