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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Community Partnership Key to Raising Awareness of Health Disparities

An academic-community partnership in St. Louis has raised awareness of health disparities and shows promise of reducing those disparities, according to a report from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Jason Purnell]

For the Sake of All was established in 2013 to use civic education as a strategy for improving developmental and health outcomes in the St. Louis region. In 2014 it issued six major recommendations for reducing health disparities, such as investing in early-childhood development.

Recommendations prompted action, such as the establishment of a program to provide college savings accounts for kindergartners. The project took on increased resonance after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson in August 2014, just months after the report was released. For the Sake of All was a significant source of information for the Ferguson Commission, which was established to address issues that were raised by the shooting and in its aftermath.

The report said the project has succeeded in influencing public understanding of disparities like the 18-year gap in life expectancy between two nearby ZIP codes in the region, which has been widely cited since the project reported it.

“It seems clear that For the Sake of All has raised awareness and encouraged some action in the St. Louis community regarding the social determinants of health and health disparities,” wrote Dr. Jason Purnell, an associate professor at the Brown School, who led the effort and was the lead author of the report. He said the project could help other cities that face similar issues.

“What St. Louis may offer in efforts like For the Sake of All is a blueprint for a way forward,” he concluded.

The report was published in December in a special edition of the journal Urban Education that focused on For the Sake of All.

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