by Alex Mikulich, Ph.D.
A new report finds that neighborhoods are a major influence on the health of boys and young men of color. The study, “Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys,” funded by the California Endowment, includes contributions from the Drexel University School of Public Health, the Drexel Department of Emergency Medicine, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute of Harvard Law School, PolicyLInk, and the RAND Corporation.
While it may seem obvious, if you grow up in a neighborhood with a good school, where it is safe, where you can walk and play outside, where you can have a regular doctor, and where you have access to good food, you are more likely to live a long and healthy life. Conversely, if you grow up in a neighborhood where it is not safe, where schools are failing, where you do not have a place to go if you are sick or a grocery store with fresh food, then you are more likely to live a shorter life, earn less money, to be a victimizer or victim of violence, and to be far less healthy emotionally and physically.
This study finds that if you are African American or Latino, you are likely to face many or all of these challenges at the same time. Other major findings of the study include:
- African Americans and Latinos face greater challenges and suffer heavier disparities economically, educationally, and in health and safety than their white counterparts.
- Boys and young men of color are at a increased risk of negative physical and emotional health outcomes as a result of where they live.
- These increased risks and outcomes underscore how trauma must be a main focus of any solution. Conversely, punitive educational and criminal justice responses exacerbate, rather than alleviate, sources of violence in these neighborhoods.
- Policy must address structural issues and support local, community-based solutions that address the health issues faced by boys and young men of color.
Contributors to the study include Dr. John Rich, author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence n the Lives of Young Black Men and Director of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at Drexel University; Joe Brooks, Vice President for Civic Engagement at PolicyLink; Susan Eaton, Research Director at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute at Harvard Law School, and Dr. Lois Davis, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation.