This is the first in a series spotlighting the co-signers of the Hogg Foundation’s Declaration of Racism as a Mental Health Crisis (Declaration). The series explores what people are doing to eliminate barriers and achieve equity for mental health in their communities.

Hands holding paper cutout of familyIn this Declaration, the Hogg Foundation recognizes racism as a profound mental health crisis. It signifies a critical step towards acknowledging the detrimental effects of racism on mental well-being. By recognizing racism’s pervasive impact on individuals and communities, we seek to address the urgent need for transformative actions to combat this crisis.

Today we are spotlighting one of the many organizations that have co-signed our Declaration. Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), located in Washington, D.C., is a non-profit public health policy, research, and advocacy organization. Its mission is to advance policies that will allow all people and communities to enjoy optimal health. By focusing on prevention and the social determinants of health, its goal is to ensure that prevention and health equity are foundational to policymaking at all levels of society.

The Need

“First, it’s important to recognize the scope of the problem,” says Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, President and CEO of TFAH. “There is a substantial amount of research and data demonstrating that members of some racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. have, on average, worse health outcomes – including higher rates of chronic and infectious disease and a disproportionate burden of disability due to mental health conditions – than do their white counterparts.”

At the root of these health disparities are patterns of inequities that have led to communities of color experiencing:

  • Higher rates of poverty
  • Less access to quality education
  • Lack of access to physical and mental healthcare
  • Unstable housing
  • Exposure to environmental hazards

To address these issues, policymakers must work to dismantle these inequities, invest in the social determinants of health (SDOH), and focus programs on communities most in need.

TFAH’s annual report, Pain in the Nation 2023: The Epidemics of Alcohol, Drug, and Suicide Deaths, tracks the nation’s ongoing mental health and substance misuse crisis, including its disproportionate impact on people of color. The report includes policy recommendations such as investing in programs that prevent adverse childhood experiences and trauma, providing mental health services in schools, and ensuring that all youth serving programs provide trauma-informed care.

TFAH also produces a blueprint report, The Promise of Good Health for All: Transforming Public Health in America. The 2021 report recognizes that structural racism is a barrier to good health and calls for policies and programs that support health, safety, and well-being for all. The blueprint’s recommendations include expanding programs that support families and help youth thrive, advancing health equity, and expanding funding for programs that serve historically excluded communities.

The Vision

TFAH works at the federal policy level to spur action by the administration and Congress. TFAH’s vision of greater health equity informs its advocacy. Some recent examples are:

  • TFAH submitted comments and offered technical input on the federal Office of Management and Budget’s proposals to revise its federal race and ethnicity data collection standards.
  • TFAH has successfully advocated for funding to launch the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social determinants of health program and develop public health capacity to address SDOH.
  • TFAH has successfully advocated for steady increases in funding for CDC programs addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and supporting social and emotional learning in schools, which can promote positive behavioral health outcomes for populations of color.
  • TFAH works with Congress to advance legislation that would fund research into ACEs with an emphasis on risk factors, including historical trauma and other social, economic, and community conditions, that result in higher burdens for certain racial and ethnic groups.
  • TFAH champions the importance of a diverse, culturally competent behavioral health workforce and supports efforts to advance behavioral health equity in regulatory and administrative comments to CDC, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • TFAH has monthly meetings of the Well Being Work Group, a collaborative of advocates, government officials, and practitioners that focuses on primary prevention for all communities. It supports the specific behavioral health needs of underserved populations, including Black and American Indian/Alaska Native populations, the LGBTQ+ community, and youth of color.

The Hogg Foundation commends TFAH for its co-signing of the Declaration and for its tireless commitment to health equity in the U.S.

For more information about TFAH visit Trust for America’s Health.

For the month of July, the Hogg Foundation is celebrating Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. We are highlighting stories that explore the efforts of diverse communities to improve community conditions that impact mental health, and what we all can do to help that happen.

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