Landmark study offers solutions to inequality still afflicting St. Louis region

May 30, 2014, Washington University in St. Louis
Landmark study offers solutions to inequality still afflicting St. Louis region

A half-century after the Civil Rights Act, unequal access to resources continues to afflict the St. Louis area, resulting in billions of dollars lost in health-care costs and wages.

But a multidisciplinary, landmark study called "For the Sake of All: A Report on the Health and Well-Being of African Americans in St. Louis," proposes solutions informed by evidence and community input and includes a call to action to and stakeholders.

"Many people have an idyllic notion that the civil rights movement happened, Dr. King marched and gave speeches, and now we're done with the project of the era," said Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, assistant professor in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and lead researcher on the project. "That's simply not true.

"We have a highly segregated community with vastly different access to resources like education, jobs, food and safety, and this has a very real impact on how long people can expect to live, and the quality of life they can expect to have," Purnell said. "It's time to confront these realities as a community."

Purnell and his team, which includes researchers from Washington University and Saint Louis University, release the findings today at a conference at the Missouri History Museum. More than 300 regional stakeholders—including elected state and local officials of both parties, other policymakers, community leaders and concerned citizens—are expected to attend.

The final report has many graphics that illuminate the story, including a life expectancy map (below) that starkly illustrates that where people live in the St. Louis region is linked to how long they can expect to live; maps showing how segregation, poverty and deaths due to chronic disease overlap; and a story of the fictional Jasmine, a simplified look at the life of a girl from the perspectives of two different starting points in life.

It also includes six recommendations that evolved from more than a year of research, policy briefs and meetings with policymakers and community members. They are:

  • Invest in quality early-childhood development for all children.
  • Help low- to moderate-income families create economic opportunities.
  • Invest in coordinated school-health programs for all students.
  • Invest in mental-health awareness, screening, treatment and surveillance.
  • Invest in quality neighborhoods for all in St. Louis.
  • Coordinate and expand chronic and infectious disease prevention and management.
Landmark study offers solutions to inequality still afflicting St. Louis region

After today, researchers will continue to engage with area policymakers and community stakeholders.

"We want to look at where the recommendations align with priorities that have already been stated, such as the City of St. Louis Sustainability Plan, St. Louis County's recently released strategic plan and state-level priorities," Purnell said.

And take action, he said, that extends into the business sector.

"We'd like to translate this work into some discussion guides and action toolkits for community members," Purnell said. "We also want to purposefully engage the business community and get their assistance in making the business case for action, helping to formulate new private-public partnerships and other types of corporate philanthropy relevant to the issues we've highlighted in our recommendations."

About the study

The "For the Sake of All" study, funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, began in March 2013. The idea was to explore the concept of health – not just what happens in a doctor's office, but a general sense of well-being that helps us engage in daily life.

"It's an issue that impacts everyone, so we also point to the costs of continuing to let these disparities exist in our community," Purnell said. "The savings we could realize if we close these gaps between groups include $27 million for mental health-care costs and $65 million for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer care."

In one year alone, the study reports, the loss of life associated with low levels of education and poverty among African Americans was estimated at $3.3 billion.

"These disparities are costing our community, and using money that could be used to help create jobs and advance the economic vitality of our region, not to mention the vitality of our people," Purnell said.

Policy briefs were released beginning late last summer and throughout last fall in these five areas:

Other partners in the project are WUSTL's Institute for Public Health, the Brown School's Policy Forum, The St. Louis American newspaper and the online news site St. Louis Beacon (now part of St. Louis Public Radio).

Purnell is encouraged by the response to the report. "It's been overwhelming," he said. "For all of St. Louis' challenges, there are vast reservoirs of goodwill."

"People want to see these problems tackled. People from various backgrounds and walks of life want to see these issues addressed."

Explore further: Study on health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis releases first policy brief

Related Stories

Study on health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis releases first policy brief

August 28, 2013
The first of five policy briefs—the hallmark of an ongoing, multi-disciplinary study titled "For the Sake of All: A Report on the Health and Well-Being of African Americans in St. Louis"—has been released to coincide ...

Mental health conditions negatively affect social and economic opportunity

October 18, 2013
A recent study revealed that adults in the City of St. Louis spend an average of 4.5 days a month in poor mental health, with St. Louis County not lagging far behind, at an average of 3 days a month.

Effects of segregation negatively impact health

November 7, 2013
St. Louis remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States, as recently discussed in a BBC documentary highlighting the "Delmar Divide" as an example. It is an issue of pressing concern in a policy brief titled ...

2-1-1 could be effective tool in fighting cancer disparities

June 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The 2-1-1 phone information and referral system could be a key partner in efforts to reduce cancer disparities affecting low-income and racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., finds a new study by Jason ...

New study examines disparities in Medicaid spending on children in the welfare system

April 23, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—In the new health-care climate of the federal Affordable Care Act and efforts to expand Medicaid to accommodate more individuals and children, the need to closely examine ways to best use government funding ...

Fear might interfere with breast cancer messages, communication researcher finds

April 4, 2014
When it comes to encouraging African American women to seek breast-cancer screening, the fear factor might be getting in the way, according to an award-winning study by a University of Missouri–St. Louis faculty member.

Recommended for you

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.