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Seeking to integrate public health and community policing approaches to reduce health disparities and violent crimes and improve the health and well-being of communities of color, a major federal effort kicked off last month with a summit of more than 30 attendees from nine selected projects across the U.S.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), and the Center for Court Innovation, participants in the Minority Youth Violence Prevention program (MYVP) kickoff ranged from hospital leaders to police, prosecutors, public health, and social service experts, hailing from Binghamton (NY), Cincinnati (OH), Cabarrus County (NC), DeKalb County (GA), Hennepin County (MN), Oakland (CA), Sacramento (CA), Chatham County (GA), and West Palm Beach (FL) and was hosted by the DeKalb County Police in their training facility in Lithonia, Georgia.
“Whether you are a local public official or work with a community-based initiative, your leadership and partnership with the Office of Minority Health and the COPS Office through the MYVP program is critical to addressing youth violence, not only as a public safety issue, but also as a significant public health issue,” said J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health in her opening remarks, adding that recent events in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York have exposed rifts between communities and law enforcement that urgently need to be addressed.
“One of the greatest struggles in this country is public trust in law enforcement,” said Dr. Cedric Alexander, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Public Safety at the DeKalb County Police Department, who also serves on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Despite decreasing national crime trends, violence still plagues minority communities across the country. In 2011, homicide was the third leading cause of death among all youth, 15- to 24-year-olds, the second leading cause of death for Hispanic youth, and the most common cause of death for African-American youth. The violence that persistently kills minority youth deprives families of promising futures, affects the health and safety of entire communities, and continues to be among the nation’s most complex problems.
In 2014, the Office of Minority Health partnered with the COPS Office to craft a three-year grant encouraging local jurisdictions to enter into collaborations between policing and public health. The resulting initiative, “Minority Youth Violence Prevention: Integrating Public Health and Community Policing Approaches,” will use promising violence prevention and crime reduction models to reduce youth violence and address individual at-risk minority male youth and establish approaches that can be replicated.
“This kick-off summit represents an important opportunity for public health and law enforcement to build partnerships and demonstrate effective strategies that integrate prevention programs that strengthen youth and communities,” said Les Richmond, division director at the DeKalb County Board of Health, noting that 51 percent of high school students in DeKalb County had seen gang activity occur in their schools.
“There are abstract definitions of what public health models of violence prevention looks like—about interrupting the transmission of violence by changing the thinking of people who transmit violence,” said John Markovic, senior social science analyst at the COPS Office. “But even more important is having the projects that we’re going to be developing here with you. At the end of three years, I think we’re going to have nine more compelling examples of public health and policing projects that work.”
At the summit, participants heard from experts about how to enhance their programs with understandings of trauma, youth development, and a number of practical strategies to communicate with practitioners from other disciplines and plan for challenges in implementing and evaluating their programs.
Dr. Joel Fein, a pediatrician from University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, discussed how violence and trauma affects the brain. Sabrina Evans-Ellis, associate executive director of the Youth Development Institute, discussed ways to build relationships with young people. Raye Barbieri, senior director of youth and community programs and planning at the Center for Court Innovation, gave an overview of how to define and recruit target populations and how to assess for the services the youth need, urging shared intentionality and shared language when working with partners. And a panel discussion featured Dr. Mallory O’Brien, director of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, Police Chief Christine Hudson of the Clarkston Police Department, and Dr. Sarah Bacon of the Centers for Disease Control about building partnerships across public health and police.
“It is our responsibility to create more opportunities to keep youth out of harm’s way and on a path to realizing their full potential,” Dr. Gracia said.
Sarah Schweig is a Senior Writer at the Center for Court Innovation, a non-profit that seeks to aid victims, reduce crime, strengthen neighborhoods, reduce incarceration, and improve public trust in justice. The Center for Court Innovation is the technical assistance provider for the Minority Youth Violence Prevention initiative.
During my pediatrics training in Pittsburgh, PA, I provided care to the young people—many of them boys and young men of color—at the juvenile detention center. But after treating various illnesses and providing routine physical exams, it was clear that many of the teenagers faced another challenge: many of them would return to communities where they lacked support and opportunity, conditions that would also have a negative impact on their health.
Communities that strengthen support and create and expand opportunities for all youth, including boys and young men of color, are at the heart of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, which commemorated its first anniversary on February 27. A one-year report from the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force details the progress we have made thus far in answering the President’s call for communities and young people to put all youth in a position to thrive, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.
As with the boys and young men I cared for in my practice, the health of our youth is determined by access to social and economic opportunities. These social determinants of health—where our children live, learn, play and grow up—are inextricably linked to health outcomes.
Studies, including a 2014 men’s health data brief released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health highlighting social, economic and health characteristics of uninsured men, continue to underscore the extent to which social determinants of health are tied to health and opportunity. We have made notable progress: the national high school dropout rate has reached record lows and the dropout rate has steadily improved among blacks and Hispanics. Our work is not yet done, however, as disparities remain for minorities.
The unemployment rate for blacks (10.3 percent) is nearly twice the national rate (5.7 percent). Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 24, and the second leading cause of death for Hispanic males in the same age group. And, 75 percent of deaths among American Indian children between the ages of 12 and 20 are caused by violence, including intentional violence, homicide and suicide, according to a 2014 report of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native Children. Through MBK, these issues have gained national prominence and are being addressed through steps to expand opportunity for all by communities and leaders across public, private and non-profit sectors.
Across the country, we are seeing remarkable support for MBK. Nearly 200 mayors, county officials and tribal leaders have accepted the MBK Community Challenge, and they are working with more than 2,000 local partners to create and improve opportunities for all in their communities. These community-based efforts are buttressed by more than $300 million in grants and in-kind resources that have been committed by businesses, foundations and other organizations.
At HHS, we are committed to doing our part to advance the goals of MBK. For example, we are expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities for children, especially those in high-need communities; we partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to provide recommendations to states and early childhood programs to prevent and eventually eliminate expulsion and suspension practices in early learning settings; and, we are increasing resources and tools to empower parents. HHS has also partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice on the Minority Youth Violence Prevention program, helping communities curb youth violence and improve their health and well-being.
We know that too many of our nation’s youth, including boys and young men of color continue to face substantial and persistent hurdles that all too often keep them from reaching their full potential. We also know that regardless of their ambitions, the difference between clearing those hurdles and getting stuck behind them often comes down to having the necessary support to realize their dreams.
That’s why we encourage every community to accept the MBK Community Challenge, because as our youth succeed, our communities thrive and our nation grows stronger.
Ed. note: This was originally published on the HHS Blog.
I’m one of the 16.4 million uninsured people who have gained health coverage since the passage of the Affordable Care Act five years ago.
For several years I didn’t have health insurance because I couldn’t afford it. As a 26-year-old, I thought I could take the risk, but it still made me very nervous. My parents and I co-own a pasta and empanada factory and I regularly work with heavy machinery. There were times when I was using the big 2,000-pound kneader and almost caught my hand and thought: If I had to go to the emergency room, what would I do?
I also worried about my family’s history of cancer. My mother’s family has struggled with ovarian cancer, but without coverage, I couldn’t afford to get regular checkups. I also couldn’t afford to get an ear problem treated properly for about a decade.
Because of the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace, I now have affordable coverage that gives me peace of mind and financial security. My Marketplace plan last year cost $98 a month after tax credits.
And best of all, I can finally get the care I’ve been putting off. I can get my checkups and, for a copay of only $20, I was finally able to see a specialist and get my ear problem taken care of.
This year was even better. I went back to the Marketplace to see if I could get a better deal and found a good policy that costs only $60 a month after tax credits.
The Affordable Care Act has made important reforms in the five years since it was passed. People can no longer be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition, such as asthma or diabetes. There are no more annual or lifetime caps on coverage, so a woman fighting breast cancer or a child battling leukemia are not cut off from care when they most need it. People don’t have to put off flu shots and recommended screenings because they can’t afford them.
And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, entrepreneurs like me can take a risk on a new business and not worry about having to stick with a job just for the health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act is helping me achieve my goals of creating an empanada empire because I know if something happens to me, I’m covered.
By making it possible to get quality coverage, the Affordable Care Act is helping me and millions of others take control of our health and chase our dreams. But coverage works best when you know how to use it. If you need help understanding your benefits and costs, how to make doctor appointments, and ways to stay healthy, check out the consumer guide at HHS.gov/CoverageToCare.
Happy 5th Anniversary, ACA.
Ed. note: This was originally published on the USDA Blog.
Make meal time a family time by focusing on the meal and each other.
In honor of National Nutrition Month®, MyPlate is sharing resources to help you bite into a healthy lifestyle everywhere you go! This blog highlights resources related to healthy eating at home.
Whether you are just beginning to grow your family, raising “tweens”, or keeping in touch with loved ones far away, family is the focus at home. MyPlate can help keep your family healthy with a variety of resources.
The Healthy Eating on a Budget section of ChooseMyPlate.gov offers information on meal planning, smart shopping ideas, and tips for creating healthy meals at home. When cooking at home, you can often make better choices about what and how much you eat and drink. Cooking also can be a fun activity and way for you to spend time with family and friends. To find free family-friendly recipes that will help you stay within your budget while cooking at home, check out What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.
MyPlate for moms and moms-to-be and MyPlate Kids’ Place provide information about a healthy lifestyle for you and your growing family. You can learn about special nutritional needs and how to meet those needs by making healthy choices in each food group.
To stay up-to-date with nutrition, “Like” the MyPlate Facebook page and share the latest healthy eating tips with your family and friends while staying in touch with them online!
Having your children help in the kitchen is a good way to get your child to try new foods. Children are much less likely to reject foods that they helped make.
Tricia L. Psota, PhD, RDN is a Nutritionist at the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
Ed. note: This was originally published on The White House Blog.
Today, the Office of National AIDS Policy, Office of the Vice President, and the White House Council on Women and Girls commemorate the 10th observance of National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Along with other Federal, national and community organizations and advocates, today we celebrate our accomplishments to date in improving the lives of women and girls affected by HIV, and recognize the work still ahead.
Our observance highlights the strides we have made in HIV prevention and care for women and girls across the United States. The introduction of antiretroviral drugs means that fewer women die from AIDS and pregnant women have reliable means by which to protect their babies from the virus. In fact, rates of mother-to-child transmission continue to fall, despite more women with HIV giving birth. Under the Affordable Care Act, new health plans are now required to cover HIV screening without cost sharing, for everyone aged 15 to 65, pregnant women, and others who may be at increased risk.
But our work is far from over: today, only about half of women living with HIV receive medical treatment, and only two in five have achieved viral suppression. Women face unique challenges and barriers to care, not the least of which is violence. Sexual assault and intimate partner violence (IPV) dramatically affect women’s access to HIV prevention and treatment. IPV, which often includes forced sex, increases a woman’s risk of contracting HIV and reduces her ability to demand prevention measures such as monogamy and condom use. In fact, women in abusive relationships have four times the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, than women in non-abusive relationships. Women in abusive relationships may delay testing and treatment out of fear of violence, and those who have been forced to have sex are less likely to ever have been tested for HIV. Women living with HIV who experience violence also have four times the rate of antiretroviral failure, compromising their long-term health even further.
Women who are HIV-positive are also at a higher risk of physical violence. Fifty-five percent of women living with HIV face intimate partner violence, double the national rate, and they risk provoking an abusive partner if they share their positive status.
It is easy to dismiss these as problems of other women, or other people. But they are issues that affect us all. Women from all walks of life are at risk — our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, friends, and coworkers. If we are to empower women to protect their health no matter their HIV status, we must address women’s unique HIV and IPV risks with targeted research and policy decisions.
That’s why in 2012, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing a Federal interagency working group to begin addressing the intersection of these overlapping epidemics. Last October, we released the first annual update of implementation progress, and today we are proud to announce new actions by both Federal agencies and community organizations to implement our recommendations:
Now we ask that you join us by becoming part of a community that stands together to improve the lives of all women in the United States. Together, we will continue supporting women and girls, fighting for their right to health, safety, and well-being, and moving toward the goal of an AIDS-free generation.
Tina Tchen is the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Douglas Brooks is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Carrie Bettinger-Lopez is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.