By now, the facts of Tanya McDowell’s story are familiar to many in Connecticut and across the country– a mother wanting the best for her kindergarten-aged son, and a school district willing to charge the mother with a crime for illegally sending her son to a Norwalk school that clearly outperformed the options in Bridgeport, which was her last known residence. As awareness of the social determinants of health in the movement against health disparities are more recognized, education must be acknowledged as one of the most pivotal, and perhaps, the most actionable for policymakers and concerned communities wishing to change the trajectory of racial and ethnic health disparities.
The 20th century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once observed that “No man will ever be so intelligent as to see the needs of others as vividly as he recognizes his own . . .” This observations has been echoed in more recent descriptions of “empathy deficits,” which have been amplified by a political climate marked by growing selfishness, hostility, and personal animosity. Regardless of the characterization, the inability of our modern leaders to think beyond the next election has fueled a crippling shortsightedness that threatens the sustainability of public policies designed to foster shared security and prosperity.
Why Do Poverty, Poor Health and Unequal Opportunity Persist in the Lives of So Many African Americans?
Why do poverty, poor health, and unequal opportunity persist in the lives of so many African Americans and to what extent are these trends a function of segregation, institutional or otherwise? Unfortunately, we have all struggled in our attempt to sufficiently articulate and explain this complex and sensitive relationship and why it results in such drastically different health outcomes in minority communities. Research on segregation and health has developed in number in recent years; however, studies and public health programming that specifically analyze and address segregation in the context of measurable social determinants and avoidable environmental health risks are in their infancy.