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Hoping for Change: Health and Social Disparities Facing Men and Boys of Color

Hoping for Change: Health and Social Disparities Facing Men and Boys of Color

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

health disparities, reporting on health

Amid ongoing debates over health budget cuts and health reform, the continuing story of racial health disparities is drawing renewed attention in California and nationwide.

In California, a new state legislative committee is focusing attention on the serious health and other social disparities facing men and boys of color. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire philanthropist George Soros donated $30 million each to the city's new Young Men's Initiative, a public-private partnership devoting $127 million over the next three years to programs serving this population . At the national level, five major healthcare organizations banded together to collaborate on a health disparities initiative called "Equity of Care."

What's behind all this activity? State and city budget cuts are forcing government officials and social justice advocates to look for new ways to help African American and Latino men and children who lag behind their white counterparts on just about every measure of health and social well-being.

Demographics underlay rising concerns over disparities: By 2045, more than half of the population in the U.S. is expected to be people of color. Health reform legislation, too, has generated interest in health disparities in part because of provisions aimed at improving data collection on race and ethnicity and improving cultural competency among health care providers. Concerns about California's overcrowded prison system have injected new urgency into long-running debates over how best to improve opportunities for men and boys of color to keep them out of the justice system.

The California State Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color recently launched with a hearing in Sacramento and plans field hearings in Fresno, Oakland and Los Angeles. The committee will work to ensure that  the state's public education, health care, employment and public safety policies better support the health and success of young men of color.

According to University of California-Los Angeles researcher Michael Rodriguez, who presented at the committee's first hearing, the main health issues facing this population are homicide, diabetes, obesity, mental health, asthma, HIV/AIDS and lack of access to health care.

If you're interested in covering health disparities facing boys and men of color, check out these great resources:

2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report 2011

Where are we on racial disparities in health? History and context from the Pizaazz health blog

Health Reform and Communities of Color: Implications for racial and ethnic health disparities: from the Kaiser Family Foundation

Health Disparities Chart Book: University of New Hampshire report compares health disparities of the disabled with those facing people of color

Photo credit: dprotz via Flickr

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