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‘For the Sake of All’ project urges community action

Joining host Don Marsh were (from L to R) Vanessa Cooksey, Jason Purnell and Yemi Akande-Bartsch
Alex Heuer
St. Louis Public Radio

For the Sake of All” is an interdisciplinary project addressing the health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis and St. Louis County that began in 2013. A collaboration of Washington University and Saint Louis University, the project issued five policy briefs illuminating major areas of concern. The first phase culminated in May 2014 with a final report outlining six recommendations.

Now in its second phase, the project is focusing on gaining community, business and political support to implement the recommendations. “For the Sake of All” lead researcher Jason Purnell and two community partners joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss the progress on this phase.

“One of the most impactful findings that people have signaled in on has been this gap in life expectancy between 63106 and 63105,” Purnell said of the reported findings of the first phase. “Less than 10 miles apart, an 18 year gap in life expectancy at birth.”

The report was a way to discover what led to the stark difference in life expectancy. What the organization found was that economic, education, and health disparities affect the health outcomes of residents differently based on where they live.

Purnell said he hopes that faith-based, community and civic organizations, along with individual community members, will help them address the findings of their report.

FOCUS St. Louis and Wells Fargo Advisors are collaborating with “For the Sake of All”. Yemi Akande-Bartsch, executive director of FOCUS St. Louis, said the group assists in the initiative by coming up with actions people can take to address the issues.

Vanessa Cooksey, senior vice president of community affairs of Wells Fargo Advisors, said the organization donated $100,000 to assist “For the Sake of All.”

“One of the things that attracted Wells Fargo to the work is that Jason believes that this [initiative] is doable,” Cooksey said. “And his belief was infectious for Wells Fargo. I think that is how the work gets done— public-private partnerships on things that we know how to do and can do.”

“I think there is an expectation that because a lot of corporations have the funding through their foundation or in-kind support that they’re the ones that can help move the needle on many of these issues,” Akande-Bartsch later added.

Part of Wells Fargo Advisor’s gift will go toward engaging youth in St. Louis, Purnell said.

One of Purnell’s goals is to establish a 529 savings plan called “Child Development Accounts” for every child born in St. Louis and St. Louis County. With roughly 17,000 births each year between the two regions, the estimated cost of achieving that goal is about $8.5 million, Purnell said.

A set of discussion guides and action tool kits on how people can help in the initiative are available on the “For the Sake of All” website. Copies are also available at all St. Louis County Library branches.

St. Louis Public Radio’s The Listening Project is affiliated with this initiative.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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