Conference Examines How Poverty Hinders Health
Neighborhood is a factor in health disparities, expert says
Health care, government and community leaders met to discuss how social and economic barriers prevent people of color and people of low income from receiving necessary health care services at the fourth annual Health Disparities Conference on Tuesday at the Universities at Shady Grove.
Nearly 300 people attended the conference, which was sponsored by Adventist HealthCare's Center on Health Disparities .
The conference addressed what can be done to improve the health of historically underserved communities.
Speakers included Brian D. Smedley, the vice president and director of the Health Policy Institute at the nonprofit Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and Betina Jean-Louis, the director of evaluation at the Harlem Children's Zone in New York.
Smedley spoke about the root causes of the inequities in the health care system and said people need to "fight against this notion that only individual will matters."
Neighborhoods matter too, he said. In fact, Smedley said, studies show that neighborhoods matter because it is within that context that underserved individuals face obstacles in securing the goods and services they need for a healthier life.
Jean-Louis spoke about the strides that Harlem Children's Zone has made in breaking the cycle of poverty. The nonprofit organization offers children from birth through college access to school- and community-based educational, social services and health services, including a charter school program.
Adventist HealthCare is a non-profit network of health care providers based in Rockville that includes Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville and Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.
Its Center on Health Disparities focuses on increasing services for underserved populations, research to identify and promote best practices in health care and an education initiative to improve the ability of caregivers to provide quality care to underserved populations.
With mortality rates strongly influenced by education level, the findings of the center's 2010 Progress Report are cause for concern.
The report found that 52 percent of whites in Maryland have above a high school education, compared to 43 percent of blacks and 24 percent of Hispanics.
People with some college education have a life expectancy of 81.6 years, approximately six years longer than people with no college experience.
The annual conference is one way that CHD works to bring together community partners in support of their efforts to reduce health access disparities in Montgomery, Frederick, and Prince George's counties.