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Group continues to examine link between health and racism in Berrien County

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. – An initiative called 'Courageous Conversations' in Berrien County is bringing to light the impact racism and discrimination has on health.

Sunday afternoon the group will gather for the next Courageous Conversation at Temple B'nai Shalom in Benton Harbor.

These living room conversations are part of larger work at Lakeland called ‘Community Grand Rounds’ which features speakers exploring the research and data linking racism and health.

The group shares reaction to the information they have learned from presenters, as well as books they read collectively, to gain a deep understanding of racism and health. Ultimately the initiative hopes to find solutions for health disparities in Berrien County.

Executive Director for Population Health at Lakeland Health in St. Joseph Lynn Todman explained the purpose of the action.

 “It turns out that we have these huge health disparities in Berrien County largely along racial lines. And we understand a thing like access to care is a problem, and health behaviors are a problem, but we also understand there is an extra burden of racism that actually contributes to these health inequities,” said Todman.

This group is really looking at the community and neighborhoods to find out what is impacting health in Berrien County.

Courageous Conversations sessions have an open format. On Sunday, Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten will be moderating and topics will look at research and science about the impact of racism on communities of color.

Todman says there are specific instances of racism showing in the community. As an example, she explained data shows almost half of people in the Berrien County Jail are African American when only fifteen percent of the county’s population is African American.

Once a deep understanding of the link between racism and health is established, the group hopes to find solutions for reform.

“To look at our own institutions and our own organizations, the policies and practices we engage in, and determine how we can rethink and reform them so they don’t create these disparities in our communities, these health disparities in our communities,” Todman said.

You can learn more about the initative here

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