UMass Memorial Medical Center | Worcester, MA
Poverty and lack of access to educational, social and economic opportunities are among the leading social determinants of health. Statistics show these socioeconomic factors result in lower utilization of health care services, higher rates of risky behavior and disease, and poorer health outcomes later in life. At nearly 30 percent, the rate of children under the age of 18 living below the poverty level in Worcester is almost double the state average. Youth living in poverty are exposed to and at greater risk of becoming involved in gangs, or affected by gang-related violence. In addition, many young people often seek medical care for violence-related injuries in hospital emergency departments (EDs). Thus, youth violence can also affect the health of communities by increasing health care costs, impacting livability of neighborhoods and decreasing property values.
Providing low-income youth with job skills and pre-employment training opportunities improves their likelihood of obtaining and holding employment as adults, thereby improving their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eating habits and access to care. UMass Memorial Medical Center listened to inner-city youth who said, during focus groups held on these topics, that they needed jobs to be healthy, off the streets and out of hospital EDs. In response, in 2005 UMass Memorial launched Building Brighter Futures With Youth (BBFWY), a youth jobs development initiative.