“The panels featured University faculty as well as experts on health and environmental policy.”

Photo by Justin D. Knight


Experts Discuss Health Care and Environmental Policy
By Tiffany Brown, communications associate, Office of University Communications

Now that the health care reform bill has been passed, many people are wondering what changes they will see in their health care coverage, and also how it will affect minority communities.

To begin addressing these issues, the Howard University Initiative on Democracy, Markets, Communication and Technology—a program created by the John H. Johnson School of Communications—hosted its first symposium,  “The Health Care Discussion: People, Environment and Policy,” on April 27, at the Armour J. Blackburn Center. The symposium consisted of three panel sessions, and used an interdisciplinary approach to illustrate how the different factors affect the quality of health care in our communities.

The symposium was funded through the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which awarded the school a $150,000 grant to facilitate research on complex national and international issues.

“The school decided to use the grant money to plan a health symposium in order to open a dialogue about this pressing issue—a conversation that we believe the African-American community needs to lead,” said Jannette L. Dates, Ph.D., dean of the School of Communications.

The panels featured University faculty as well as experts on health and environmental policy. Many of them discussed why they believe the African-American community is disproportionately affected by poor quality health care despite the continual advances. For instance, the African-American community still suffers from a higher rate of diseases and premature births compared to other ethnic groups. Also, Latinos are often deterred from accessing essential health care services as a result of having the highest uninsured rates.

“Part of the problem lies in a lack of clear communication about how to obtain health information and use it to assist with pressing health matters,” Dates said.

During the “Understanding Environmental Determinants of Health” panel, alumnus Floyd Malveaux, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Merck Childhood Asthma Network Inc. and former dean of the College of Medicine, discussed the effects that Hurricane Katrina has had on school-aged children in New Orleans. According to the research he presented, 78 percent of children in New Orleans are now sensitive to mold, compared to 50 percent nationally.
“Climate changes will have direct and indirect adverse affects on human health, especially changes that result in warmer climates,” Malveaux said.

Along with climate change, land development and zoning can also affect a community’s quality of health. A key issue that was discussed is the lack of healthy or organic food options in impoverished areas.

“Healthy food can cost the same or less than unhealthy food,” said Bradford Grant, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Science.

Grant also emphasized the need for more mass transportation options and community gardens in metropolitan areas, which would encourage healthy lifestyles and reduce pollution.  However, all of the panel members agreed that these changes will not be made unless people are informed and demand that new policies are implemented to improve their neighborhoods.

“We hope to continue this dialogue and take the lead on other conversations and issues that disproportionately affect our communities,” Dates said.

(Pictured above, l-r: Charles Jarmon, Ph.D., associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences; Melinda Downing, Department of Energy; Floyd Malveaux, M.D., Ph.D., Merck Childhood Asthma Network Inc.; Bradford Grant, interim dean, College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences; and Bailus Walker, Ph.D., professor, College of Medicine.)

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