Report shows health disparties between white and minority boys and young men

June 30, 2010

By Daniel Weintraub

Boys and men of color are more than twice as likely as white boys and men to suffer from poor health and the effects of violence and other trauma, according to a report released today by the California Endowment, a nonprofit foundation focused on the connections between place and health.

The report, a collection of research funded by the foundation, shows that:

–Latino boys and young men are four times more likely than white boys and young men to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

–Young African-American men are 16 times more likely to die in a homicide than white men;

–African-American babies are nearly three times more likely to die before their first birthday, African –American children are nearly four times more likely to suffer from childhood asthma, and African Americans are about seven times more likely to have HIV-AIDS.

–Latino children are twice as likely to be obese as their white counterparts.

These and other findings come from research by the RAND Corporation, Harvard Law School, Drexel University College of Medicine and PolicyLink, and Oakland-based think tank. The research generally connects poor health to the conditions under which boys and young men of color typically live.

“Negative health outcomes for African-American and Latino boys and young men are a result of growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage, places that are more likely to put boys and young men directly in harm’s way and reinforce harmful behaviors,” the Endowment’s report said.

(Disclosure: The California Endowment was also the initial funder of this web site, HealthyCal.org.)

Latinos and blacks are more likely than whites to grow up in severe poverty, to lack access to health insurance and health care, to attend failing schools and to drop out before graduating from high school. All of these maladies contribute to other problems later in life.

Lois Davis, a RAND researcher involved in some of the work cited in the report, called the conclusions “sobering.” She said the problems affecting Latino and African American boys and young men are so severe that many people find them overwhelming. But Davis said that the research also points to programs that are working to reverse the tide.

“When you look at all these different outcomes,” she said, “It is important to understand how they are related.”

The research, for example, shows that education is related to better health outcomes, and Latino girls have some of the highest drop-out rates, and the highest incidence of teen motherhood. And so poorly educated young Latinas are raising boys who will later be more likely to have problems. By keeping those girls in school, the cycle can be broken.

The same is true of the problems that come from exposure to violence at a young age.

A program implemented in Los Angeles middle schools targeted kids who had been exposed to violence and was successful at reducing the levels of dysfunctional behavior typical of kids who have suffered that kind of trauma.

“If you intervene early on and mitigate those effects, you help those kids stay in school and mitigate the long-term psychological impacts,” Davis said. “And hopefully they themselves, down the line, don’t end up becoming involved in the criminal justice system.”

To see the entire report, go to http://www.calendow.org

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