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Public Comment Encouraged On 'For The Sake Of All' Research

Nanette Hegamin

Scholars involved in a five-part study that examines the well-being of African Americans in the St. Louis region will seek public feedback on their research during a forum on March 3 at the Forest Park Visitor Center. The session, from 2 to 5 p.m., is free, but participants must sign up through the event registration page.

The lead researcher, Jason Q. Purnell, said the site of the forum as well as the title of the research project -- “For the Sake of All” -- were deliberately chosen as ways to engage the entire community in addressing social problems affecting black residents.

“We are trying to come up with a central location, quite honestly, because we do believe that in order to move forward with the recommendations, it’s going to take the engagement of the entire community,” said Purnell, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University.  

He said the feedback session marks an important part of the project.

“We’re very serious about wanting input from the community in terms of is this the right set of policy recommendations? Is the way we’ve presented the recommendations making sense to people?And are we targeting the right areas?” he said in a phone interview.

While the project is based on the scientific research, the team also wanted to make sure its research reflects the priorities of the community, Purnell said.  

The research briefs cover five issues:

  • How the region can save lives by investing in economic and education opportunity, written by Purnell.
  • How health can influence the school dropout rate, written by William F. Tate,  recently appointed the next dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and vice provost of graduate education at Washington University.
  • How to improve mental health, written by Darrell Hudson, assistant professor at the Brown School.
  • How segregation can adversely affect health, written by Melody S. Goodman, assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine; and Keon L. Gilbert, assistant professor in the College for Public Health & Social Justice at Saint Louis University.
  • How addressing chronic disease can lead to better health outcomes, written by Bettina F. Drake, assistant professor at the Washington University School of Medicine; and Keith Elder, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Management & Policy at Saint Louis University.
    Credit (Credit: For the Sake of All)

The researchers will discuss their findings with local and state elected officials at later dates. The project culminates with a community conference on May 30, when the group issues its final report and policy recommendations. That conference occur nears the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brows v. Board of Education decision, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“There was a great deal of hope attached to those historical events,” Purnell said. “There are people who have said we would have been farther along than we are 50 and 60 years after these landmark events.”

He added that there also are stories to tell about the progress made in increasing educational attainment and narrowing the gap in income between blacks and whites in St. Louis.

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.