This summer 50 Brooklyn high school students participated in the second annual Health Disparities Summer Internship Program where they learned about issues related to health inequity, such as the impact of income and education levels affecting one's likeliness to purchase organic foods.
The Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC) and the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health under the auspices of its Health Science Academy partnered to conduct this four-week program which reflected many of the strategies and foundational components of the National Partnership for Action (NPA).
Students learned about partnership, awareness, youth leadership, community engagement, community oriented research, cultural competency, research and data, determinants of health, and health problems for minority communities. Upon graduation students were asked to share their work through an oral and poster presentation.
"Our internship program is explicitly aligned with the NPA strategic goal to do more to recruit minority students into the health professions," said Kweli Henry, policy analyst at BHDC. "Our future plans are to integrate the health disparities summer curriculum into the year-round, after-school program --Health Science Academy -- offered by the Arthur Ashe Institute and to seek funding to continue our current efforts."
At a time when many Brooklyn teens have few real summer employment opportunities, federal government stimulus funds enabled 50 local high school students to pursue paid internships with local community based organizations (CBOs) to conduct health disparity related projects.
BHDC, a partnership between SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, and the Brooklyn Borough President's Office was established in 2004. It is envisioned as a nationally recognized leader in the elimination of health disparities focused on minorities and immigrant populations.
The internship is open only to current scholars or to freshman applying for admission to the Academy in the fall. Those selected learn common principles of health inequity, such as the impact of language barriers when receiving medical care, and the variations in access to treatment based on income. Students put this knowledge to use while working with supportive community-based organizations throughout the borough.
Community partnerships make sense for organizations grappling with survival in an environment of funding cuts and service retraction. The Health Science Academy partners with participating high schools to address the under-representation of minorities in college, medical school, and the health professions. Medical school students and faculty at SUNY Downstate Medical Center teach courses on science and math to stimulate interest and offer mentorship among minority participants. These relationships not only influence the students' perspective on education but also broaden their chances of employment.