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‘Those aren’t just statistics, they are people’s lives:’ Wash U’s Purnell on ‘For the Sake of All'

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Jason Purnell, assistant professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss what's happening with the For the Sake of All project.

The “For the Sake of All” project made waves with the revelation that, in St. Louis, less than 10 miles apart between Clayton and north St. Louis, there is an 18 year gap in life expectancy at birth.

The multi-disciplinary project on the health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis, which combined a multi-part report and recommendations to the community, hasn’t stopped its work.

“Those are not just statistics, they are people’s lives,” said Jason Purnell, assistant professor at Washington University’s Brown School of School of Social Work, who spearheaded the project.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the continuing efforts of the “For the Sake of All” initiative with Purnell and where the work of the project goes from here. The group is hosting its final community event on June 27 about disease prevention and management.

“We know that poverty is not randomly distributed,” Purnell said. “Over a century of housing policy has gotten us to concentrated areas of poverty, where we find more African American poverty concentrated into these tight pockets where poverty just accumulates.”

Background: ‘For the Sake of All’ project urges community action

The work will not be over following the final event in June.

Many of the recommendations that came out of the “For the Sake of All Report” are now a part of the Ferguson Commission and Forward Through Ferguson’s recommendations as well.

Purnell said that, back in February, over 100 stakeholders came to Washington University to discuss eight strategies (including: universal child development accounts, school-based health clinics, mental health regional data system, advocacy organization for inclusive housing) and how they could be implemented. There have been follow-up meetings since and Purnell said he’s seen traction in the community for carrying this work through.

“We’re talking about poverty, but everything that goes along with poverty,” Purnell said. “The disorganization and disorder that happens in people’s lives when there aren’t adequate resources: grocery stores, safe places to play, affordable and adequate housing. It can’t be boiled down simply to a lack of economic resources.”

Listen to Purnell discuss the continuing work of “For the Sake of All,” the legacy of segregation in St. Louis, and how this work is informing national medical research here:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.