In order to meet the health needs of a culturally diverse population, the United States public health workforce must become ethnically diversified to provide culturally competent care. The underrepresentation of minority, specifically African American public health professionals may be a contributing factor to the high rates of preventable health disparities in the African American community. Studies have shown that racial/ethnic communities bear the highest disparities across multiple health outcomes. African Americans, when compared with European Americans, suffer the greatest rates of health disparities, thus providing the justification to increase minority public health professionals. In addition, studies suggest that minorities are more likely to seek medical and health services from individuals of the same ethnicity. This will assist in decreasing language and comprehension barriers and increase the cultural competence of the health providers who serve populations from their ethnic/cultural origin. This chapter will highlight a 2014 study designed to explore and identify motivators for African Americans to choose public health as a career. African American public health professionals and graduate students were engaged to discuss their career and educational trajectories and motivators for career choice. Using qualitative research methods, this study was guided by the following research question: what are the motivating factors to engage African Americans into careers in public health? The study was approved by the Walden University Institutional Review Board and was conducted in 2014. The results of this study have served as the blueprint for the creation of the Flint Public Health Youth Academy (FPHYA). Coincidently the 2014 study was wrapping up at the genesis of the Flint Water Crisis (FWC). The FWC impacted residents of all ages in Flint. Specifically, the youth of Flint were exposed to lead (a neuro-toxin) and other contaminants through the water system which impacted them physically and cognitively. National media outlets disseminated headlines across the world that Flint youth would have behavioral (aggression) issues and struggle academically as a result of their exposure to lead. The FPHYA was designed to provide positive messages to and about Flint youth. It is an introduction to careers in public health, medicine, and research for Flint Youth. It creates a space for Flint youth to work through their lived experience of the FWC while learning the important role public health and research plays in recovering from an environmental public health crisis. More importantly, it is a pathway to public health careers providing didactic sessions, local mentors and internships.
Part of the book: Leading Community Based Changes in the Culture of Health in the US