This post is part of an exchange between The Public's Health and the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
With the recent grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, Ferguson is again in the news. The protests and aftermath of the death of Brown have stimulated heated debates on civil rights, police brutality, and segregation/racism within Ferguson and the nation as a whole.
Since the August 2014 death of Brown, much has been written about the inequalities within Ferguson, which is an inner-ring ethnoburb that has seen a startling shift in its demographics in the last two decades as the black population has increased from 25 to 67 percent (similar demographic shifts are occurring locally in the lower part of Northeast Philadelphia). Unfortunately a discussion of the health outcome disparities of black and white residents in St. Louis County and in the state in general, has been largely absent. The health inequities that exist in Ferguson begin at birth, last a lifetime, and shape access and quality of care available to all residents. Without the context of the health disparities that exist, the view of Ferguson that we are seeing is through a glass darkly – obscured and unreliable.
In the report "For the Sake of All" co-published by Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University, it is noted that "health is fundamental to human well-being," forming the basis for a citizenry that is engaged in the community and contributing to an optimized society. By focusing on disparities in education, access to nutritious food, crime rates, and employment, as well as the linkages which exist between these factors and chronic illness, the report highlights the central role of health to combating larger socioeconomic factors in the region.