Social Justice

The Root of All That Is Wrong

This weekend my friend Caroline and I headed to downtown Raleigh for HKonJ’s Moral March. HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones St People’s Assembly Coalition. The purpose of the Moral March on Raleigh is “to hold a mass people’s assembly to reaffirm its commitment to the 14 Point People’s Agenda and to hold lawmakers accountable to the people of North Carolina.” The agenda addresses public education, health care reform, living wages, environmental justice, voting rights, and more.

Though I marched for many reasons, I was most motivated by supporting Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. I find it truly repugnant that the leaders of this state will not expand federally-funded health care coverage to 500,000 of North Carolina’s low-income citizens. It sends the damning message that some lives matter less, and a political statement is more important than those lives.  Reflecting on the fallacious notion that some people are more valuable than others made me think of this quote:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. ” -Paul Farmer

This is why social justice is the keystone of social work. I believe my most important role is to make it known and understood that all lives, especially the lives of those who are disenfranchised, matter.

P.S. If you don’t know much about Paul Farmer, I highly recommend Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

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A Swift Kick In The Butt {Fun Friday}

Hallelujah, it’s Friday!!! Work was absolutely crazy this week. Obviously I know that protecting confidentiality is of the utmost importance, but sometimes I REALLY wish I didn’t have to abide by HIPAA regulations. You would not believe some of the things I see and hear with my cases. My friends Brittany and Caroline, who are also social workers, devised a plan for us to write a book called I Can’t Make This Sh*t Up. We can all attest to the cliché that truth is stranger than fiction.

Anywayyyy, on to some Fun Friday stories, pictures, and videos!


Let’s get this party started with a dog video. (I have a dog video problem.)

He is so perplexed by that fountain.

Next up is a “Lip Flip” segment from The Tonight Show. Have you seen this yet? This one with Jimmy Fallon and Billy Crystal is by far the funniest one to me.

I find it unsettling and hilarious.

Below is an amusing Calvin and Hobbes strip that I want to put up in my office.

pt6Ol1v

 

Sometimes we all need one. 🙂

Finally I want to share an NPR segment called, “Beyond Charity: Turning The Soup Kitchen Upside Down.” While charity is certainly necessary in the short-term, it is often not the best way to help people long-term.  Robert Egger, the founder of DC Central Kitchen, noticed that many of the individuals eating at local soup kitchens were battling addiction and facing incarceration in addition to dealing with unemployment and homelessness. Egger decided to take a “teach a man to fish” approach and created a culinary job training program, which teaches individuals how to cook and earn a food handler’s license. The individuals in the job training program help produce approximately 10,000 meals each day. About 5,000 meals are sent to local nonprofit organizations and another 5,000 meals are distributed to local, low-income schools.

My graduate school classmate Allison is starting up a non-profit with a similar model in Chapel Hill, NC. It’s called Made With Love Bakery. Made With Love Bakery is a “faith-based transitional employment bakery sharing the love of Jesus Christ with individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness, giving them a second chance at employment and equipping them with the training and support they need to overcome poverty.” You can find out more on the website or her blog.

Sheesh, I’m supposed to turn off the social work for these posts. What can I say? I love seeing people find creative ways to address social issues. It inspires me.

Have a great weekend!!

Health Equity {Social Justice Issue}

I am FINALLY posting another piece in my social justice series. I love social justice posts, but they take longer to write than most of my posts. If you haven’t read Food Deserts and Swamps yet, read this one first. This post provides a broad overview of the relationship between social justice and health. It helps explain my perspective on health and well-being, and sets the stage for future social justice posts.


Health Equity

What is health equity? 

Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as “attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.”

Health Equity

What is the difference between health equity and equality? 

Health equality focuses on fairness and involves equal distribution of health-related resources to all people regardless of pre-existing differences. Health equity focuses on people attaining the same optimal level of health, which often means that some people get more assistance or resources than others. Particular attention is paid to groups that have experienced major obstacles to health associated with being socially or economically disadvantaged. The image below is helpful for understanding the difference between the two.

equity

Source: theequityline.org

Unlike health equality, a health equity approach acknowledges that some individuals have a better chance of attaining optimal health than others. Therefore, the goal of health equity is to level the playing field so that everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy. An essential component of leveling the playing field and ultimately eradicating health disparities is addressing social determinants of health.

What are social determinants of health? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.”

In simpler terms, social determinants of health include a person’s

  • socioeconomic status,
  • neighborhood,
  • employment conditions,
  • education,
  • access to healthcare,
  • race,
  • ethnicity,
  • sexual orientation,
  • gender,
  • and personal behaviors.

The video below illustrates social determinants of health by using “Chad” and “Jeff” as examples.

For another example, as I pointed out in my last social justice post on food desserts and swamps, people who live in low income neighborhoods or communities are less likely to have access to affordable and nutritious food. And as we all know, a healthy diet is absolutely essential for overall health.

Why does health equity matter?

Health is a basic human right, and it affects every part of our lives. While some factors of health are beyond human influence, we have the power to address the social injustices that lead to health disparities. By building on individuals’ strengths and mitigating the effects of social and economic disadvantages, we can work towards equal opportunity for optimal health and well-being.

Resources and Additional Information

Healthy People 2020

WHO – Social Determinants of Health

Food Deserts and Swamps {Social Justice Issue}

Though I often write about food and recipes, you read that correctly; I’m writing about food deserts, not dessert. I’m sorry to disappoint if you came here looking for delicious sweet treats. Perhaps I’ll make a dessert post soon. 🙂

I love reading healthy living blogs and food blogs, and there is a vast amount of valuable information about how to live a healthy life. However, among the debates about organic foods and Crossfit, there is little discussion about people who do not have access to the tools and foods necessary for a healthy lifestyle. I say this not to trivialize typical blog topics (that’s mostly what I write about, too) but to suggest that there is room for broader discussion of healthy living challenges that most bloggers, myself included, do not usually face. My goal with this post and future social justice posts is to provide information and encourage people to contribute to change in their communities if the topic is meaningful to them.


Food Deserts and Swamps

What is a food desert?

A food desert is an “area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly low income neighborhoods and communities” (US Department of Agriculture). (Low income areas are defined by more than 40% of the population having incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold.) Approximately 23.5 million people live in food deserts. Food deserts are most common in urban and rural areas.

What is a food swamp?

Some people have suggested that food swamp is a better term for urban areas than food desert because there is usually food available, but it is not healthy, varied, or affordable (i.e. fast food and pricey, processed convenience store food).

food-deserts

Case Study #1- Emma and Charles Davis in Atlanta, Georgia 

If you read anything in this post, please take a look at this excerpt from Atlanta Magazine‘s feature “Stranded in Atlanta’s Food Deserts” by Rebecca Burns:

If everything goes right—the buses are on time and they make every connection—a one-way trip from their apartment to the store takes two hours. But if there’s a glitch, and there’s almost always a glitch, they’re looking at three hours. Each way. By car it takes twenty minutes to cover the same route. There’s another Kroger, half the distance from the one on Moreland Avenue. But the bus to get there is crowded. “No one gives up a seat,” Charles said. “We have to stand the whole way.” Forget the store five miles north in Vinings Village; MARTA service ends at the border of Fulton and Cobb counties. 

I highly suggest reading the rest of the article. While statistics are useful and important, I think reading about the human side of food deserts is most powerful.

Case Study #2- Baltimore

The infographic below depicts the location of large grocery stores vs. small grocers, convenience stores, carry out, and fast food in three geographic areas of Baltimore, Maryland. The population, average income, and racial makeup of each area is included. The bottom of the infographic shows the number of deaths/10,000 people for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (which are all linked to diet) for each area. The last statistic is the potential years of life lost due to preventable disease.

info-web1

Source: BryanConnor.com

The infographic illustrates the difference between food deserts and swamps, and it also demonstrates that low income areas and African Americans are most affected by food deserts/swamps.

What can we do about food deserts/swamps? 

The image below lists several strategies to help combat food deserts and swamps. I highlighted  a few of the solutions and included  examples that have been enacted.

FoodDeserts_Solutions_Final

Source: Dark Rye by Whole Foods Market

  • Grant funding to get affordable, fresh produce into local convenience stores. Minneapolis has the Healthy Corner Store Program to assist convenience stores with providing healthier food options.
  • Investment pools to provide grants and loans to grocers wanting to build or expand in underserved neighborhoods. The New Jersey Food Access Initiative is one example.
  • Non-profit grocery stores. Follow this link to see a video about the non-profit grocery store Fare and Square in Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • NYC Green Carts.

71159_256712407255_6656822_n

  • Volunteer programs that collect unsold food (especially fruits and vegetables) from farmers and food vendors to redistribute to low income communities where fresh food is not readily accessible. One example is Gather Baltimore.
  • Mobile  markets and produce vans such as Veggie Van in Durham.

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Resources and Additional Information

Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences by USDA

Food Access and Food Deserts: Durham County, North Carolina by Associate Professor Stephan Schmidt of Cornell University

Food Empowerment Project – Great information about food deserts and health risks associated with poor diet.

 

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