Welcome to the revamped Diversity Blast!
As you might have noticed, the Diversity Blast has been on a two week hiatus. During this time, we’ve been creating a vision for diversity programming for staff and corps members. To that end, we want to make sure all of the awesome diversity and inclusiveness related initiatives happening throughout the region—both in person and digitally—align to that vision, starting with the weekly Diversity Blast. Here are some of the tweaks we’ve made:
- The purpose of the Blast is to raise awareness, build shared context and spark dialogue around current events.
- The Blast will now be oriented around a single weekly theme. This will give us time and space to dive deep into a single topic.
- The Blast will highlight issues that impact students, families and our community at large in order to develop deeper understanding of and empathy for our students and families
We hope the changes will make it easier for everyone to read what interests them, as well as take action from what’s learned. Further, if you have ideas for future blasts, please let us know!
Which brings us to the theme of this blast: health!
Earlier this month, our entire staff was welcomed into the headquarters of HealthTeacher, a tech organization that provides teachers with resources to help students live healthy, active lives. With common core aligned lessons and texts, kinesthetic games on their offshoot GoNoodle, and a reach to over 6 million students across the nation, HealthTeacher is a growing force in public health. They invited us to their office to learn more about us, but we wound up being so compelled by their vision that we scarcely had time to share about ourselves. Our time at HealthTeacher led me to think about the relationship between the work we do and the health of our students in the short and long term. What stands out to me is the intersectionality of oppression. With that in mind, this week’s diversity blast will be all about how health impacts students and families, and how identity impacts health.
On the intersection of poverty and barriers to health:
- Perhaps most pertinent to our students and their families is this month’s huge cut to SNAP benefits. (from Elise!)
- From the article, “These cuts will likely cause hardship for some SNAP participants, who will include 22 million children in 2014 (10 million of whom live in “deep poverty,” with family incomes below half of the poverty line) and 9 million people who are elderly or have a serious disability. Cutting these households’ benefits will reduce their ability to purchase food. This cut will be the equivalent of taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four, or 16 meals for a family of three, based on calculations using the $1.70 to $2 per meal provided for in the Thrifty Food Plan.”
- Growth of childhood poverty also results in growth of uninsured children. While this article focuses on Memphis, southeastern states have disproportionately high numbers of children in poverty and the majority of children in our public schools live in poverty.
- “Poorest of the Poor Left Out of Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare Expansion”
On the intersection of immigration and health:
- Frequently, food insecurity cripples the health security of immigrant children.
- Research suggests that there is a link between health and academic outcomes of immigrant children and the immigration status of their families.
- What’s perhaps more unsettling is that US-born first generation children tend to live shorter, less healthy lives than their foreign-born parents.
On the intersection of race and health:
- Race and Mental Health Disparity: Non-blacks tend to receive mental health care at about half the rates of whites.
- Infant mortality rates range 3 to 4 times higher for African-Americans, even when maternal education is equal.
- Disparities and Inequalities in Maternal and Infant Care: This issue brief includes statistics about higher infant mortality rates of minority mothers as well as several case studies of organizations trying to reverse this trend.
- There have been tremendous developments in bettering the outcomes for individuals with Down’s Syndrome in the past few decades. However, the life expectancy for black people with Down’s Syndrome is half that (25 years) of white people with Down’s Syndrome (50). For those racially identifies as “Other,” that life expectancy drops even further to around 12. This reflects a huge racial gap in access to care throughout the life span starting with maternal health.
On the intersection of discrimination and health:
- Discrimination itself has a profound impact on self-reported health, even in young people. Eric Grollman’s piece from Sociological Images examines the ways in which discrimination itself impacts health. He writes:
“Youth who face multiple forms of discrimination and more frequent discrimination report worse self-rated physical health and more depressive symptoms than youth who face fewer forms and less frequent discrimination.”
- In other words, just feeling like you’re being discriminated against can result in negative health.
So where does this leave us as educators and education professionals? It’s a reminder that health is more than what we eat, how often we exercise or our resting heart rates: it’s the systematic access or lack thereof that we experience in the daily, the long term, and the generational. As people deeply invested in outcomes for children, we know the work of unsettling discrimination, improving quality of life and increasing the likelihood for a long, contended life is unbelievably difficult, but ultimately worthwhile. If you find yourself thinking, “what can I do?”, here’s a list of public health centers with sliding scales that are open to the uninsured right here in Nashville. If you know a student, individual or family who could benefit from these services, please send this list along either digitally or in print.
Further, remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (hey hey teachers!). Feeling valued, safe and cared for is a huge aspect of a vibrant mental and physical life. You may not be able to give your students their immunizations, but you can connect them and their families to services in the community that might have been unknown to them. You can educate your middle and high school students about the Affordable Care Act, food deserts and healthy living. You can play a GoNoodle game with your third graders! By building a safe classroom, you can work daily to upend the negative feelings that Eric Grollman found result in negative health and depressive feelings. Keep that in mind as you continue your awesome work in classrooms, with corps members, in the office and with community partners!
Thanks for your time, thought and care,