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Think Tank Investigates the Environmental Conditions Surrounding Health Inequities

DETROIT, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Today a group of health professionals, community-based organizations, elected officials and other community leaders from more than a dozen states toured neighborhoods in Detroit/Wayne County to solidify participants' understanding of how the county's history, culture and economic successes and challenges play a role in determining health status. The tour is part of the opening session of a three-day discussion to consider how to reduce health disparities that persist for African Americans and other racial and ethnic populations.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a leading Washington, DC-based think tank, which focuses on issues affecting African Americans, is sponsoring the meeting at the Hotel St. Regis in Detroit this week with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Featured presenters include a panel of race relations experts: Dr. Camara P. Jones, Research Director on the Social Determinants of Health at the National Center on Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an expert on measuring racism and investigating the structural causes of health inequities; Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, President of The National Crittenton Foundation, an expert on increasing racial and ethnic diversity in communities, and creator of the campaign framework for Facing Race: We're All in This Together, an initiative of The Saint Paul Foundation; and Dr. Allan G. Johnson, sociologist and noted author on issues of privilege, oppression and social inequality. Visions, Inc., a national firm specializing in race relations, is facilitating the three-day session designed to assist the participants in understanding and reducing structural racism.

The "Place Matters" Initiative, a national project of the Joint Center Health Policy Institute (HPI), is designed to improve the health of participating communities by addressing social conditions that lead to poor health. The "Place Matters" teams represent 22 counties and two cities (in more than 12 states and the District of Columbia) working in partnership with HPI. The "Place Matters" Initiative has identified challenges to health that have roots in structural, institutional and interpersonal racism. Dr. Brian D. Smedley, Vice President and Director of the Joint Center Health Policy Institute, stated, "This meeting represents the ongoing commitment of 'Place Matters' teams to tackle critical issues, such as structural racism that is an underlying cause of health inequality. The 'Place Matters' Initiative's interdisciplinary teams are continuing to bring new insight to this silent crisis."

County Executive Robert A. Ficano brought greetings on behalf of Wayne County. Ms.Edith Killins, Director of Health and Human Services and leader of the Detroit/Wayne County "Place Matters" team, underlined the importance of this meeting: "By addressing upstream factors that lead to poor health outcomes, 'Place Matters' leverages an approach that differs from the usual disease reaction model. Wayne County is pleased to partner in this initiative that provides a critical learning opportunity for participating jurisdictions and for the nation, as teams of dedicated participants develop, test and share new strategies to address social determinants of health."

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation's leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses exclusively on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. For more information, go to

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