SLPD article on STL city-county divide, by Tony Messenger

Tony Messenger’s April 13, 2017 article, Messenger: Redraw the boundaries so that St. Louis can go all in, addresses the divide between the city and county in St. Louis. Messenger references research outlined in the 2014 For the Sake of All report underscoring the gaps in health outcomes and life expectancy between rich and poor and African American and white St. Louisans. According to For the Sake of All Project Director Dr. Jason Purnell, “This is the story of St. Louis. The in group has divided the resources and, more often than not, left little for the out group. That’s our history, on purpose.”

The article discusses the results from the recent April 4 elections in the context of the city-county divide and highlights an event held on the same day in which Dr. Purnell and other panelists encouraged the city and county to come together. Messenger also proposes an approach where the city, county, and state would work together (as they plan to in the NFL lawsuit) or where policy agencies would consolidate to establish agency-wide standards and improve public safety.

According to Messenger, “that sort of thinking would require what Purnell says is necessary for St. Louis to thrive in a new global economy, a ‘redrawing of the boundary of the in group.’

Messenger’s message: “Redraw the boundaries so that the entire region can go all in.”

Read the full article.

Asset Funders Network releases new brief on wealth and health

On February 28, 2017, the Asset Funders Network released a new brief on the relationship between wealth and health, The Health and Wealth Connection: Opportunities for Investment Across the Life Course, with authors Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, MPH and Anjum Hajat, PhD, MPH. This release demonstrates that funders have an opportunity to bridge interests and cross silos to make stronger connections between wealth building, economic security, and prevention and health outcomes.

People’s relationship with money impacts their health. Far beyond health care access and affordability, wealth and numerous social factors related to where people live, work, and play impacts a person’s health. Data indicates assets, income, and health are inexorably linked. On the one hand, good health is associated with higher wealth and income, better employment and education. On the other hand, we know that adults with more financial resources have better health and live longer lives. Throughout one’s course of life, the challenges of health and wealth are connected — but why aren’t the solutions?

A webinar conducted by the authors is now available. Presenters Purnell and Hajat explore how health and wealth are connected and discuss how health impacts are more significant for low-income, vulnerable populations, particularly people of color. They go on to share compelling evidence for investment in strategies and policies that consider both the physical well-being and economic stability of individuals, families, and communities.

Download the brief.
View the webinar.

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.


Harvard class designs solutions for housing segregation in St. Louis

A recent St. Louis on the Air broadcast and article by Kelly Moffitt of St. Louis Public Radio highlights Harvard professor Daniel D’Oca’s urban planning and design project in which students created accessible solutions to address fair housing and urban segregation in the City of St. Louis.

Led by Professor D’Oca, graduate students at the Harvard University School of Design studied the history of housing policy in St. Louis and specifically how segregation contributed to the events in Ferguson in the summer of 2014. He and the students then took a field trip to St. Louis to meet with prominent community groups, including Forward Through Ferguson, to gather information and perspectives.

Students in the class are now developing the design projects, aimed at “affirmatively furthering” fair housing in St. Louis and sharing them in the St. Louis community. Projects range from a curriculum on the history of segregation to a graphic novel on racial zoning ordinances. Learn more about the projects here.

Read the full article and listen to the broadcast here.

Commentary by Herb Kuhn, President & CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association

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Herb Kuhn’s February 2, 2017 commentary in the St. Louis Business Journal, Addressing childhood trauma to improve quality of life, discusses the importance of identifying both home- and community-based risks for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The damage caused by childhood abuse and neglect or toxic stress can affect physical and emotional health throughout one’s life and can even result in early mortality.

Kuhn’s commentary highlights a model developed by the Missouri Hospital Association’s Hospital Industry Data Institute that helps hospitals identify ACE risk at the ZIP-code level. It also shares results of a risk analysis showing how high-risk ZIP codes are dispersed throughout the state. St. Louis-area hospitals are using the data collected in a collaboration with Alive and Well STL to address the determinants of health and economic disparities in these communities. “The goal is to accelerate the understanding of the science of toxic stress and trauma and adopt practices that can mitigate the impact for St. Louisans.”

Read the full commentary here.

Project Director Receives Regional Awards

Jason Q. Purnell, Principal Investigator and Project Director for For the Sake of All, received two notable honors in the latter part of 2016.

On December 29, the St. Louis American named Dr. Purnell the 2016 “Person of the Year,” noting: “It is better that we do what For the Sake of All is trying to do: work together to improve the health of all people by eliminating racial inequities that stifle our region’s — and nation’s — growth.” Read more here.


On December 14, the Missouri Foundation for Health awarded Dr. Purnell with the Walentik award, established four years ago to honor the late Dr. Corinne Walentik’s commitment to serving vulnerable populations. The Foundation noted, “Dr. Purnell is an impressive researcher, leader, and change-maker. His drive and commitment to improving our region is remarkable.” Read more here.

Blog Post by Dedrick Asante-Muhammad & Jason Purnell



A recent blog post by Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Director of CFED’s Racial Wealth Divide Initiative and Host of the Race and Wealth podcast, and Jason Purnell, Assistant Professor at Washington University’s Brown School, was published in November in The St. Louis American and The Huffington Post.

The post discusses the persistent and pervasive problem of racial wealth inequality in the U.S. According to a recent report, “it will take African-American households 228 years to accumulate the amount of wealth white families enjoy today.” Exploring the racial wealth divide in the St. Louis area in particular reveals not only poorer financial outcomes but also lower life expectancies for people of color.

Across the country, there are numerous local initiatives combatting issues like unemployment, low wages, and housing that can have an impact on financial well-being and health. Both For the Sake of All in its 2014 report and the Ferguson Commission in its 2015 report made recommendations for how to tackle these problems in St. Louis, and “a diverse, cross-sector set of stakeholders is working to translate [these] recommendations into action.”

Read the full post here.

SLPD article on premature infant death in STL, by Nancy Cambria


Nancy Cambria’s December 6, 2016 article, Too many babies are dying in St. Louis and one group is taking a stand, addresses disturbing racial trends in infant mortality in St. Louis. According to a recent study commissioned by Generate Health (formerly the Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition), “African-American babies are three times as likely to die as white babies in St. Louis.” We reported similar findings on page 58 of our For the Sake of All 2014 report.

Cambria’s article also highlights the work of Generate Health’s Flourish campaign, funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, and the unveiling of a recent call-to action promoting infant safe-sleep practices among African-American families.

Read the full article here

In Ferguson, a Picture of Health Disparities

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A recent article in U.S. News & World Report examines the disparities that persist in Ferguson, Missouri more than two years after the death of Michael Brown and one year after the release of the Ferguson Commission report, “Forward through Ferguson.” The disparities are clear and visible, both in Ferguson and across the United States.

The author points to the For the Sake of All 2014 report as having “quantified health disparities in the region along racial lines and offered proposed solutions,” months before Brown was killed. “The report’s findings were staggering: Blacks in the county are 17 times more likely to be injured by firearms and six times more likely to be injured from abuse, neglect or rape,” says Dr. Jason Purnell, assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis who advised the Ferguson Commission and leads the For the Sake of All project.

“We were in the unique position of having done our work before Ferguson,” says Dr. Purnell. “Some have said that it predicted the level of frustration because of the disparities that we laid out in the report.” While Purnell says the changes are not happening “fast enough for anyone’s liking,” he notes some strategies listed in the commission’s report have begun.

Read the full article here.