News & Announcements

Large Health Gaps Found Among Black, Latino, and White Fifth-Graders

Posted: September 01, 2012

Substantial racial and ethnic disparities were found for a broad set of harmful health-related issues in a new study of 5th graders from various regions of the U.S. conducted by Boston Children's Hospital and a consortium of research institutions. Black and Latino children were more likely than white children to report everything from witnessing violence to engaging in less exercise to riding in cars without wearing seatbelts. At the same time, the study found that children of all races and ethnicities did better on these health indicators if they had more highly-educated parents with higher income or had the advantages of attending certain schools. Although white children were more likely to have these advantages than black or Latino children, when children with similar advantages were compared, racial and ethnic differences for most health indicators were smaller or even absent. The study is titled Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities among Fifth-Graders in Three Cities, and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers examined 16 important health-related measures. Some key disparities included:

  • Black children were more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol than Latino and white children.
  • Black and Latino children were significantly more likely to experience discrimination (because of a wide variety of characteristics, like race and ethnicity, weight, and income).
  • Black and Latino children were much more likely to report worse overall state of health.
  • Black children were four times more likely and Latino children were two times more likely than white children to see a threat or injury with a gun.
  • Rates of obesity were nearly twice as high among black and Latino children, who also reported less vigorous exercise than white children.
  • Black and Latino children were less likely than white children to wear a seatbelt or a bike helmet.
  • Black children reported higher levels of being victimized by peers than Latino and white children.

The study is the most ambitious effort to date to investigate the potential drivers of racial and ethnic health disparities among preadolescents. Results emphasize the key role that schools and family income and education may play in health disparities. Mark A. Schuster, MD, Ph.D., Chief of General Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and William Berenberg Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, led a research team that conducted the study. Between 2004 and 2006, they interviewed about five thousand 10- and 11-year-olds and their parents, in and around Birmingham, AL, Houston, TX, and Los Angeles, CA.

Read more on the Science Daily website. Read the abstract of the study.

Addressing Depression Among American Indians and Alaska Natives

Posted: August 31, 2012

The purpose of this report is to highlight and review literature, programs and activities focused on depression and other common mental health conditions in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities in the United States. In 2010 the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) initiated its Health Equity Project in order to examine the health disparities affecting urban AI/AN communities. This report represents a synthesis of academic (articles in scholarly, typically peer-reviewed journals) and grey literature (from a variety of sources including websites, online documents, government reports and presentations). This combination of findings is uncommon in typical reviews of depression and mental health among AI/ANs, which tend to focus on peer-reviewed academic literature.

This report provides background information on the prevalence of and factors associated with depression and common mental health conditions in AI/ANs as well as a description of mental health care standards, utilization trends and barriers to care. The procedures and inclusion criteria used in this literature review are detailed in the methods section. Due to the limited availability of outcomes and evaluation information in the sources identified, the results here do not present evidenced-based or best practices for depression but rather focus on the themes identified regarding implications for care as well as descriptions of programs in practice and useful resources. For organizations serving urban AI/ANs, it is intended that this information be useful for program planning purposes and proposal development.

Read the complete report (pdf).

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Toolkit for Refugees & Immigrants Available in 18 Languages

Posted: August 30, 2012

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) Healthy Living Toolkit is designed to educate refugees and immigrants so they can become proactive health consumers and health promoters in their communities. The toolkit presents material in a culturally appropriate manner and is intended to help health care-related professionals to more effectively assist refugees and immigrants and reduce the health disparities among these populations.

The Toolkit includes a section on Mental Health which covers the topics of Adjusting to a New Culture, Substance Abuse and How to Manage Stress.

Other topics include -- Communicable Diseases, Domestic Violence, Environmental Health, Health Care, Hygiene, Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition Related Diseases, Respiratory Diseases, Women's Health

Download the Toolkit in:

Read more about the Toolkit on the USCRI website.

Mental Health Challenges Facing Homeless Parents & Children Living in Shelters, Transitional Housing

Posted: August 29, 2012

A new paper from North Carolina State University calls for more research on how to help homeless families with children who are facing mental-health problems, as well as changes in how shelters are treating these families. The article is titled Promoting Positive Parenting in the Context of Homelessness.

"We wanted to lay out the specific mental-health challenges facing homeless parents and children living in shelters and transitional housing," says Dr. Mary Haskett, a professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the paper. "This is important, because at any point in time there are approximately one million families with children who are homeless in the United States." 

The paper includes recommendations on shelter practices and future research. The paper was authored by researchers from NC State, Kutztown University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Kansas. 

The paper calls on shelters to take a "trauma informed" approach to their operations, meaning shelter staff should be aware that most families they serve have had traumatic experiences that shape the way they view the world. "This should be accounted for in the shelter's rules and regulations, and inform the services they provide," Haskett says. "Very few shelters currently take this approach." 

Read more on the Medical News Today website. Read the abstract of the study.

Yale Developing iPad Video Game to Prevent HIV Infection among Ethnic Minority Youth

Posted: August 28, 2012

Yale researchers are developing a video game for the iPad aimed at preventing HIV infection among ethnic minority adolescents. Their study appears in Games for Health, titled A Qualitative Study to Inform the Development of a Videogame for Adolescent Human Immunodeficiency Virus Prevention.

The video game, which is called Playforward: Elm City Stories, is being developed, in collaboration with Digitalmill and Schell Games, as an interactive world in which the players, using an avatar (virtual character) they have created, "travel" through life, facing challenges and making decisions that bring different risks and benefits. The player will have the ability to see how their choices affect their lives and subsequently will be able to move back in time to see how different actions might lead to different outcomes. By negotiating challenges in a highly repetitive and meaningful way, the player learns skills that translate to real life, equipping the player to avoid situations that increase their risk for HIV, says Hieftje.

The Yale team interviewed three dozen adolescent boys and girls in New Haven, Connecticut (known as the Elm City), to determine the factors that drive their behaviors, specifically risk behaviors. The researchers are using these first-hand reports to design a video game intervention that will be tailored and relevant to this specific at-risk population. According to lead author Kimberly Hieftje, associate research scientist and a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS at Yale, “It is vitally important that we reach this age group with interventions that reflect where they are — that is, playing  games. We hope using video games as a delivery vehicle will increase their level of engagement, with greater opportunities for positive and enduring behavior change.”

Read more on the Yale website. Read the full-text of the article (pdf).

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