Blog: National Partnership for Action
Posted on 8/22/2013 by Stefanie Brown James
When I was a kid my mother would often tell me, "You know, you don't have anything if you don't have your health." And my response would be, "Yeah, ok, Mom…whatever." Why would I, a young girl full of energy, ever think about a day when I wouldn't be in good health? My horizon was bright and I believed that nothing – especially my health – would keep me from achieving my dreams.
Once I graduated from college however, I realized the flaw in my thinking. It wasn't so much how I viewed my own health, but the lack of appreciation I had for the safeguard that supported me all along – my parent's' health insurance.
My first job out of college was with a nonprofit organization in Baltimore that offered amazing healthcare benefits. But like most young adults who take leaps into pools without water, I soon grew tired of "working" and decided that I would move back home to figure out my next steps. Unfortunately, there was one major thing I failed to calculate with my move back to Cleveland: I couldn't pack up my health insurance and take it with me!
This was in 2005, five years before the Affordable Care Act allowed children to stay on their parents' health insurance through their 26th birthday. As an unemployed 24 year old, I suddenly realized that I didn't have the safety net I unknowingly relied on all my life. Even when I landed a job at a temp agency, it didn't provide health coverage, let alone a salary that would allow me to purchase my own insurance.
Now, eight years and a number of jobs later, I run my own consulting company in DC and a leadership organization for young black women called Brown Girls Lead . I'm finally conquering the goals that I laid out for myself – especially living a life as an entrepreneur with the ability to chart my course on a daily basis. But taking creative risks has come with its own set of challenges. At times I have lived without insurance, and I always knew that a random fall or a sudden illness could set me back – especially financially.
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, young people who want to live life to its fullest are able to do so without the fear of getting sick and not being able to afford a visit to the doctor. Thanks to the ACA, 97,000 young people in my home state of Ohio gained health insurance. In addition, more than 500,000 African Americans between the ages of 19 and 25 will now have coverage under their parents' employer-sponsored plan or if they individually purchase a health plan. They are now free to explore different kinds of work, take creative risks and follow their dreams with the knowledge that they'll have a health care safety net beneath them.
So whether you're a young adult at a start-up company or a baby boomer ready to start a second career as an entrepreneur, take comfort in knowing that the Affordable Care Act is there to care for you.
Posted in: Health Disparities Prevention Affordable Care Act/Health Care Law Health Equity Youth | Comments | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
Posted on 7/24/2013 by Jeremy Hsiao
You probably know someone who is affected by mental illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four Americans currently suffer from a mental illness, and one in two will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. These statistics do not include the family, friends and community who are deeply affected by their loved ones' mental illness. Here at the Office of Minority Health, we are elevating the importance of this issue as a part of Minority Mental Health Awareness month.
During my freshmen year at the University of Maryland, I became involved with an on-campus organization called Active Minds. Active Minds' goal is to promote positive mental health while fighting the stigma associated with mental illness.
One of the first events that we put together was "Send Silence Packing." The centerpiece of this national event is 1,100 backpacks representing the number of college students that commit suicide annually. Some of the backpacks being displayed are the actual backpacks that these college students left behind. Family and friends will add stories and memorabilia so that whoever looks at the backpack can imagine the person that it was once attached to.
During that event, there was one backpack in particular that stood out. It belonged to a former student, John. John was rock climber, and a great student – sociable and beloved by everyone. His backpack must have had 50 or so personal letters from friends and family, each describing a precious memory they had of him. Those stacks of letters were all laminated and bound to the backpack by a single ring that seemed to be overwhelmed by the memories. Also attached to the backpack were pieces of rock-climbing equipment that he so often used with his buddies. It was obvious that John's backpack never looked like this when he was using it, but I have never been able to imagine anyone more vividly than John that day.
As I moved on, I recognized a woman looking at display in the far corner of the room. It was my 10th grade Earth, Space and Science teacher, Mrs. Suzanne Martin. When she saw me, she immediately gave me a hug and asked how I was adapting to college life. Mrs. Martin looked younger with her new hair style and she was as energetic as I ever remembered. When I asked her what she was doing here, she looked away and said, "I will show you". She took me to the entrance of the room and pointed to a backpack.
She took me to John's backpack. Suzanne Martin was John's mother.
At this point, I realized that I knew someone who was affected by mental illness.
Luckily, there are resources available for people living with mental health issues as well as their family, friends and caregivers. President Obama and Secretary Sebelius recently launched the website mentalhealth.gov, which examines mental health from many angles. The website includes the following mental health resources:
Join me and the Office of Minority Health to become part of the movement to promote positive mental health.
*Names have been changed.
Posted in: HHS Federal Mental Health Minority Mental Health Month Youth Peer Educators | Comments | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
About the Blog
The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
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