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In Health, Income has Greater Impact than Race

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Being poor can have a bigger impact on your health than your race, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute.

“Income is a driving force behind the striking health disparities that many minorities experience,” stated a recent report by the Urban Institute, a research group originally founded in 1968 to study the programs associated with the War on Poverty.

And even though Blacks have higher rates of disease than Whites, “these differences are dwarfed by the disparities identified between high- and low-income populations within each racial/ethnic group,” the report said.

“Poor adults are almost five times as likely to report being in fair or poor health as adults with family incomes at or above 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or FPL, (in 2014, the FPL was $23,850 for a family of four) and they are more than three times as likely to have activity limitations due to chronic illness,” stated the report.

In 2010, Whites “had twice the income of Blacks and Hispanics, but six times the wealth,” the report said.

“In 2011, almost one-quarter (23.3 percent) of adults with family incomes under $35,000 per year had no usual place of medical care, compared with 6.0 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or higher,” stated the report. “Similarly, 22.6 percent reported not having seen a dentist in more than five years, compared with 4.3 percent of adults with family incomes over $100,000.”

The effects of poverty on low-income families are often inescapable.

“Public transportation is often inadequate to enable residents to commute to employment, to find a better job, or to reach a supermarket, a reliable childcare provider, or health care services,” stated the report. Poor families also live in neighborhoods plagued by environmental pollution and live near busy highways and industrial factories.

Poor families often lack access to fresh produce and live in communities super-saturated by fast food restaurants, carry-outs and liquor stores. Safe places for children to play can be scarce.

Families with yearly incomes below $35,000 were “four times more likely to report being nervous and five times more likely to report sadness ‘all or most of the time,’” compared to families that made more than $100,000.

Children who live in low-income households are at greater risk for childhood obesity and experience higher rates of asthma than middle- and high-income families.

According to a 2010 American Lung Association report, the prevalence of asthma is 35 percent higher among African Americans compared to Whites. In 2012, the Center for American Progress said that asthma costs the country about $14 billion annually because of lost wages and missed schooldays.

And instead of saving employers money, low-income workers often cost their employers more, the report said, because of higher health care expenses and diminished productivity, as a result of missing more days at work and coming to work sick.

Adults who have suffered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which can include oral, physical or sexual abuse or family dysfunction, are twice as likely to have heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes and four times as likely to have chronic lung disease, the report said.

“Policies that reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or that promote improved educational outcomes can translate into improved economic well-being, better health outcomes, and lower health care costs,” the report explained. “Similarly, the effects of unemployment on health may be buffered by unemployment assistance and other resources (e.g., savings, family resources, and social or business contacts).”

The report also recommended making stronger investments in early childhood education and expanding community-based programs and improving service provider networks.

Citing a British study, the Urban Institute researchers noted that adults (60 to 64 years-old) who had grown up in the wealthiest households often “had 7 to 20 percent better cognitive performance” than adults who had grown up in the poorest households.

“People and interest groups working to solve these problems are doing more than improving income and wealth: they are ultimately benefiting population health for all age groups,” said the report.

“Improving the economic conditions of Americans at many income levels—from those who are poor to those in the middle class—could improve health and help control the rising costs of health care. Jobs, education, and other drivers of economic prosperity matter to public health.”

Police Violence Coverage Takes Mental Toll

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Police have killed at least 369 people in the first four months of 2015, with 103 Black Americans – 28 percent – making up a disproportionate number of the victims, according to Ferguson protester project, Mapping the Police.

But a growing number of medical experts say the damage inflicted extends far beyond the number of actual victims.

Unarmed Black male victims are currently en vogue in the media, with images of the victims’ last moments on loop hour after hour. And each incident adds a fresh layer of offense – from Deputy Robert Bates in Tulsa, Okla., who was charged with the manslaughter of Eric Harris but allowed to vacation in the Bahamas after the court hearing, to Officer Dante Servin in Chicago, found not guilty for Rekia Boyd’s murder because the prosecutor deliberately filed lesser, inappropriate charges.

“The repetitive nature of this, the fact that this is chronic…. Chronic experiences of racial discrimination, and I’d include vicarious discrimination, can influence mental and physical health outcomes,” says Amani Nuru-Jeter, associate professor of public health at University of California-Berkeley and researcher on racial health disparities. “I’m not saying it’s the same as post-traumatic stress disorder, but we do some similarities in how people cognitively respond.”

Other depressive or schizophrenic symptoms (such as paranoia or emotional numbness) can emerge, as well as physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease. On an individual level, racism in general has gradual, but potentially life-shortening effects on the mind and body.

These effects can be even more acute for those who make their Blackness the most important part of their self-identity, and/or those who internalize the racism against them.

“We found that it’s associated with ‘cellular aging,’” Nuru-Jeter says, referring to a body of public health research to which she has contributed. “We used a measure called telomeres, which are biological indicators of the age of the cells in our bodies and indicate premature biological aging.”

On a communal level, being under the threat of police violence backed by the authority of the local, state, and sometimes national government, is enough of a burden on its own. When this oppression stretches from the mundane to the life threatening – such as the discriminatory fines up and the National Guard deployment in Ferguson after Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted – it is easy for Black communities to fall into a sense of hopelessness.

The more a community feels bound by the same identity (be it racial, socioeconomic, or otherwise), the more deeply the effects of chronic racial discrimination are felt.

“There’s also collective racial identity. There’s [an academic field] called social capital…and in that, there’s a concept called bonded social capital,” Nuru-Jeter explains. “Identity can increase solidarity. For example, what we saw in Ferguson was an outcry of, ‘We’re tired of being treated like this, we’re raising our voice to say Black lives do matter to us.’”

There’s also the matter of images. Some media outlets have routinely reported on the victim’s past crimes and encounters with the justice system, and used either an old mugshot or image of the victim dead or dying to accompany their coverage.

Some outlets have come under fire for what many consider insensitive treatment of the deceased. One Change.org petition specifically asked ehe Washington Post to stop using victim mugshots in covering police violence. After some outcry on social media, CNN began to air a blurred version of the footage of Walter Scott’s killing, as captured by bystander, Feidin Santana.

Nuru-Jeter points to neuroscience research involving FMRI scans (which map both brain activity and structure) that show how images or films can create a vicarious experience for the viewers.

“Some of these studies show that the same parts of the brain light up compared to when people have their own experience. I’m extrapolating here, but the suggestion is [there],” she says, especially for people who see themselves and their loved ones represented in the victims on TV.

As police killings continue to be a hot topic in the news – and as police departments continue to use lethal force in their interactions with civilians – it is likely that media coverage of this violence will continue. Nuru-Jeter highlights two ways to protect one’s self and loved ones from the mental toll of these tragedies.

First, having strong racial identity can be a buffer, if it is experienced in a proud way. By focusing on Black pride, and drawing strength from the positive aspects of the Black American experience, individuals and communities can balance out the painful parts.

Finally, supportive people and systems are key for overall wellbeing.

“What happens when we see a constant message of devalued Black life in society? One way people can cope with this is to share the experience, and not hold it in,” she says.

“Even if you’re not getting individual support, simply being a member of a group [as in protest] can help. ‘There’s strength in numbers’ counts as a cliché, but I think the evidence is there to support that.”

City Struggles to Balance Transparency vs. Investigation Integrity in Gray’s Death Probe

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By Roberto Alejandro
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Baltimore City officials are walking a tightrope as they seek to balance the public’s right-to-know and frustration against protecting the integrity of the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

“I recognize that there’s frustration over this investigation,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on April 24, speaking to members of the local and national media at City Hall. “But I want to be clear: there is a process, and we have to respect that process. In order to have justice, and not just seek justice, the investigation has to follow procedures.”

Surrounded by clergy members from the Baltimore area, the mayor offered condolences to the family of Gray, the West Baltimore man who died on April 19, one week after suffering three broken vertebrae in his neck and a crushed voice box while in police custody on April 12. Rawlings-Blake also, praised demonstrators for staging what have been peaceful protests, said she demanded answers in what happened to Gray, and indicated that all information collected by the Baltimore Police Department in the investigation of Gray’s death would be turned over to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby on May 1 for independent review.

The city has seen five straight days of demonstrations—with a major action planned for April 25—from residents demanding not only answers, but indictments. Many protestors have expressed frustration with what feels to them like the glacial pace of information being released by the city about what happened to Gray; but as Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said at his own press conference about two hours after the mayor’s press conference, doing otherwise could compromise the very quest for accountability the community is seeking.

“What you see us tap dancing on and balancing here is that if someone harmed Freddie Gray, we’re going to have to prosecute. And so giving too much information out to you on the front here now may jeopardize that prosecution. So we’re trying to be as open and transparent as possible, but if somebody harmed him, they have to be held accountable, and we don’t want to give all the information that we have.”

The commissioner did give a number of updates of what he said the Baltimore Police Department’s investigation had uncovered so far. Gray was not secured with a seat-belt in the transportation wagon that was transporting him from the scene of the arrest to the Western District police station, “as he should have been,” said Batts.

“No excuses for that, period,” said the commissioner.

Batts also said that officers failed to provide Gray with medical attention “in a timely manner, multiple times.”

Later on in the press conference, Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis, after describing the foot chase that ended in Gray’s apprehension on the 1700 block of Presbury St., said, “And quite frankly, that’s exactly where Freddie Gray should’ve received medical attention.”

According to Batts, five of the six suspended officers have given statements, while one has continued to invoke his or her “rights.” Because of the nature of the investigation, officers are protected both by their Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution against self-incrimination, as well as their rights under Maryland’s law enforcement officer’s bill of rights, which gives police officers 10 business days to attain legal counsel before they can be questioned in an administrative (internal) investigation. It was not clear which set of rights the officer was invoking.

Baltimore Mayor Condemns Clashes, Announces Curfew

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By Lisa Snowden-McCray
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Baltimore — Monday night, as looters took over Mondawmin Mall, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake was at the Office of Emergency Management for a news conference to address the destruction that overtook parts of the city earlier that day.

Joined by Chief of Patrol for the Baltimore Police Department Col. Darryl De Sousa, City Council President Jack Young and Baltimore City councilman Brandon Scott – Rawlings Blake said there was a difference between people who peacefully protested and “the thugs who only want to incite violence.”

The mayor announced a city-wide curfew that would last from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. She said the curfew was to last a week and be extended as necessary.

“If you are on the streets, it will be medical emergency or you are going to work,” she said. The announcement came after several hours’ worth of clashes between young people and police. In pictures posted to social media accounts, officers armed with riot gear could be seen facing off against a large group of young people at Mondawmin Mall. The officers reported being hit by bricks, glass bottles and other debris. People on the scene reported being hit with rubber bullets and sprayed by pepper spray.

Among property damage from the day’s events was a CVS store at North and Pennsylvania, which caught fire. There were also reports of destruction of police cars and small fires in the streets.

Rawlings Blake said that she has been in touch with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who had activated the National Guard.

She also addressed concerns that she was not visible during much of the looting, saying that she was at work managing the situation behind the scenes.

She spoke out against what she called a blatant mischaracterization of her words about destruction and violence that happened after a day of peaceful protests on Saturday.

“I was asked a question about property damage. We balance a very fine line between giving peaceful protestors space to protest. People can hijack that and use that place for bad. I didn’t say we were accepting of that.”

De Sousa said that 15 police officers had been injured by flying debris during the unrest. He said most had been treated for minor injuries and released, while two remained hospitalized.

He said that 75-100 school-aged children caused the violence. He said, as of the conference, 27 arrests had been made. He also said that police would be monitoring video to determine if any other arrests would be made.

“Could we have done things differently? We have to asses that,” he said.

Councilman Jack Young also condemned the clashes.

“This is unacceptable. This is not what Freddie Gray’s family wanted,” he said.

“These are thugs who are seizing upon an opportunity to show their anger and distrust. We have to let the Department of Justice and the state attorney do their job. Our job is to get it right,” he said. “It’s your job as the media to report that.”

“These are not the people who live in Sandtown-Winchester,” he said. These are opportunists and we are not going to tolerate it. Justice will prevail.”

'Black Panther Party' Film Seeks Wider Audience

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, the first feature-length film to focus on the origin and downfall of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is making waves in the film community. It’s been a breakout entry at the Sundance Film Festival, and has already won an award at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles.

But for acclaimed director Stanley Nelson, the real triumph will be in getting the film to the masses.

“We’re going to film festivals…and getting great, great, great responses. But one of the things that we feel is that film festivals reach a certain segment of the population,” says Nelson, the filmmaker behind Freedom Riders, The Murder of Emmett Till, and other notable documentaries on the African American experience.

“Another segment of the population doesn’t go to film festivals, and those people are the people we want to reach in the theatrical release.”

Thanks to financial backing from PBS, the film will have a theatrical release in more than a dozen cities across the country this September. Still, the documentary team hopes to raise additional funds through donations website, Kickstarter (kck.st/1IjSI1V). These funds will support the film’s expansion via broad advertising, and public appearances and events with the filmmakers and Black Panther Party leaders.

“Our hope is that if we raise a bit more money…as we go through these [13] cities, if we’re successful and recoup our investment, then we’ll just put that money into going to more cities,” Nelson explains. “Our goal is not to make a profit, our goal is to get people out and have as many people see it as we possibly can.”

Other documentaries and movies have either focused on Black Panther figures such as Kwame Toure and Assata Shakur, or have explored the Panthers as one part of a larger picture. The Black Panther Party focuses solely on the organization in its entirety and weaves together a variety of voices, from Party martyrs to those tasked with their destruction. The film also boasts original content from notables such as Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Henry Douglas, Elbert “Big Man” Howard, and more.

“One of the things we tried to do in this film is make sure it’s exciting and we tell a new story to everybody,” both the well-informed and the newcomers, Nelson says. “Some of the great things that have happened in the screenings is, people who were Panthers themselves come up to us and say, ‘You know, I was in the middle of it. I didn’t know half the stuff that was in the film.’ There’s a lot of new information.”

Donations through the Kickstarter come with interesting perks, ranging from social media shout-outs for donations as small as $5, to T-shirts, tickets to screenings, autographed photos, and more. For those who cannot donate, Nelson recommends sharing the Kickstarter link with others (kickstarter.com/projects/blackpanthers/the-black-panthers-theatrical-release).

New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, Chicago, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Seattle and Washington, D.C. are the 13 initial cities slated for wide release this fall. The film will also be screened at several film festivals around the country throughout the summer. More information on these screenings can be found on www.TheBlackPanthers.com.

Most schools teach little to nothing about the political and social movement launched by the Black Panthers. And in the midst of today’s movements against injustice and discrimination – from police violence to reproductive rights – the film is well timed.

“We want a lot of people to see the film, especially young people. It’s not only a film about the Black Panthers, but the Black Panthers represent young people who really became involved in changing the world,” Nelson says. “Right or wrong, they did feel like they were changing the world. And we want young people to get that message.”

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BVN National News Wire