health disparities

Q&A: New Research Highlights Health Disparities Amongst Men of Color

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This Black History Month, there's been a lot of talk about health disparities, and a new report shows how the early life of Black children can have a big impact on their future.

It might seem like common sense, but an interactive map from the "Opportunity Atlas" adds some perspective. The map uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Connecticut, it shows that a Black child in New Haven County will have an average household income of $26,000 by the time he turns 35. By the time a white child turns 35, the average income jumps to $55,000.

Even when looking at families with high household incomes, Black children are expected to make on average $34,000 a year, while white children are expected to make $56,000.

The Health Disparities Institute at UConn Health is taking a look at health disparities when it comes to boys and men of color. The institute uses research to push for new policies.

NBC Connecticut's Jane Caffrey spoke with Dr. Wizdom Powell, the director of the Health Disparities Institute to discuss what this issue means.

JANE: "Dr. Wizdom Powell, the director, is at the helm of these efforts. Dr. Powell, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Your research is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has a report card on health equity among men and boys of color here in Connecticut. What did that report card indicate?"

DR. POWELL: "Thank you for the question. So, we launched the first ever report card on health equity among boys and men of color first, because we recognize that while boys and men of color have tremendous potential to contribute to our nation's economic vitality, much of that potential was being squandered because of unaddressed long standing persistent health disparities or inequities. And so, from this report card, we underscore a couple of really important findings. One, we know that there's variability among racial and ethnic groups in male populations in particular health outcomes. For example, we know that men and boys shoulder a significant burden for chronic diseases and substance use and misuse and addiction. We were able to see from that report card that that concentration holds steady, more prominently for men who are African American, or who are Hispanic and Latino."

JANE: "Some really interesting insight coming out of that report card. What concerns do you in particular have regarding health disparities for boys and men of color?"

DR. POWELL: "One of the things that really keeps me up at night is the fact that we have these persistent and long-standing disparities and inequities in boys and men of color, and yet there hasn't been a systematic sort of collective effort, if you will, across states, and across our federal government. To address them, we have an Office of Women's Health, which is so necessary, but we don't have a comparable office for the study of men's health, and I think that without that signal from the top, setting the command climate for this work, I think we have a lot of apathy around this. There are significant empathy gaps for these populations, like we don't really get the same sort of warm and fuzzy emotions around trying to create opportunities for upward social mobility for boys and men. And partly, that's because we have a significant challenge with the narrative. Often, we talk only about the risks that are present in Black men and boys. But we don't talk about the promise and the possibilities and all the contributions that Black men and boys make every day, to our civic, landscape to government. They get up and pay their bills every day, and they're incredible fathers. I think that those assets are what we need to focus on most. And really, the question isn't, why are some black men and boys at more risk? It's why are there some black men and boys who are thriving relative to others?"

JANE: "How does working toward health equity for boys and men benefit all families of color?"

DR. POWELL: "This is a phenomenal question because often what we think about when we hear the terms health equity or disparities, or we think about designing programs and policies for subpopulations, the question is always what about us? What about everyone else? But here's the rub. What we know is that equity is not a zero-sum proposition that in fact, when we raise the equity of those populations who are historically excluded, marginalized or oppressed, we actually raise the health of the entire population."

JANE: "Alright, Dr. Wizdom, Powell, thank you so much for speaking with us tonight."

DR. POWELL: "It's been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for having me."

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