Break the Cycle of Health Disparities, Inc.
is a non-profit established to explore
the social, economic and environmental determinants of health
for children living under circumstances of social and economic disadvantage
in communities of color disproportionately burdened by
racial and environmental injustice.
The children from these communities are more likely to have adverse health outcomes aggravated by limited health care and educational resources resulting in
the perpetuation of intergenerational poverty and health disparities conceptualized in
a Cycle of Health Disparities.
The goal is to Break the Cycle of Health Disparities by:
Developing an enhanced understanding of the relationship between social and economic disadvantage and the prevalence and severity of adverse health outcome
Supporting and developing programs and strategies that will improve the health of children in vulnerable communities
Supporting and coordinating research in promotion of health related to adverse social and economic circumstances and adverse environmental factors
Actively promoting health equity by training of health care professionals, influencing health care practices, and shaping Public Policy
The threats to children’s health and well-being are often multiple and complex.
Children are at greater risk for adverse environmental factors because they are growing and developing.
Today, health concerns for children, such as asthma, obesity and its complications of hypertension and diabetes, and neurodevelopmental disorders are often caused or exacerbated by environmental factors.
This is a challenge, not only at an individual level, but also at the level of the family and community, and, ultimately, it also has an impact on society in terms of the potential loss of human potential, the need for prevention and management strategies, and the utilization of resources of necessary resource to promote health. Additionally, there is a societal impact in terms of the cultivation of its future citizens, workforce, and leaders.
Children who grow up in an environment of social and economic disadvantage are at greater risk for exposure to toxins like lead and other chemicals.
They are impacted by the age and quality of the houses in which they live as well as the schools where they learn, the infrastructure of the communities in which they live, the risks of violence that they may experience, and the associated emotional stress that they face on a day to day basis.
The vulnerability of these children is therefore greater by virtue of their risks for exposure, magnified further by limitations in support for optimal education, access to quality health care, infrastructure, and limited social capital.
The impact can be greater because the risks are often cumulative resulting in health disparities.
The Break the Cycle Program
Break the Cycle is a multidisciplinary academic program that focuses on cultivating future leaders in all academic fields that have an impact on the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health.
This program offers a broad look at the relationship between social and economic disadvantage and developmental disabilities and other chronic medical conditions.
Each year, students and faculty from a variety of colleges and universities participate in developing projects that will Break the Cycle of Children’s Environmental Health Disparities to promote health equity for all children.
The students present their projects at a national conference and the results are published in international journals. Over the past 16 years Break the Cycle has engaged over 150 students from 50 university departments in 12 states in the USA as well as from countries in Latin America, Africa, and Europe that have resulted in the publication of 12 international journal supplements. This set of projects also forms the basis for a book series on Public Health topics.
The Break the Cycle Program received the 2016 Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency in Washington DC on Children’s Environmental Health Day October 13, 2016.
Break the Cycle of Environmental Health Disparities aims to:
Reduce health disparities that are caused by socioeconomic and ecological factors that adversely affect children and families burdened by lower socioeconomic circumstances.
Develop a better understanding of the impact of social and economic disadvantage on health status with a focus on health disparities.
Provide education and guidance to students and post graduate learners who are involved in social, economic, and environmental determinants of health.
Develop, implement and evaluate programs that will improve health status among the underserved by impacting modifiable social determinants of health.
Support research activities that promote positive health by improving environmental health.
Positively influence the delivery of health care while training health care professionals to work in underserved and disadvantaged communities.
BCHD Cohort 13: Paul Nguyen
My name is Paul Nguyen.
I was part of the Break the Cycle program in 2016 where I worked with LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness to create a music and arts program.
As I draft my personal statement for residency, I began to reflect upon the moments that significantly impacted my life.
I just wanted to thank you for allowing me to participate in your program because it sparked my interest in health disparities research, which I plan to continue in my career.
I am now a 4th-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine and am concurrently obtaining my Masters in Education. Break the Cycle introduced me to the concept of environmental health disparities. I wish I had learned about it earlier, so I am now working with a local high school in Pennsylvania to incorporate more content about environmental health disparities into their curriculum. I still refer to the infographic from your website.
I also continue to use my background in music and the arts, most recently in my global health work where I assisted with HIV research in Zambia and became friends with an underground LGBTQ community there. I attached a recording of my presentation here if you are interested. Because of this work, I was then recruited to join a committee of artists to help design the Hampden Medical Center, a new community hospital in Pennsylvania set to open later this year.
I am still deciding between emergency medicine and anesthesiology, but I know that I want my career to address the cycle of environmental health disparities in a global setting. I wanted you to know the impact Break the Cycle had on me because I would not be where I am now without it, and I attribute much of my interest to your program.
We have established a Facebook group to offer an opportunity for members of the Break the Cycle community to communicate information, experiences, ideas, and thoughts on Break the Cycle Projects. We look forward to this unique forum for learning about past, current, and especially future projects directed at reducing children's environmental health disparities.
Click here to join the group
We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to become part of the Break the Cycle community.