Black and Hispanic boys in California are twice as likely to have poor health as Caucasian boys, and chronic poverty and exposure to violence in the neighborhoods where they live affects their health, researchers said this week.
Treating trauma and preventing it must be part of the solution for improving the boys' health, the researchers said.
Valley children's advocates say the research confirms what they have found for boys in the central San Joaquin Valley.
"Men and boys are traumatized," said Cassandra Joubert, director of the Central California Children's Institute at Fresno State.
The California Endowment, one of the largest health foundations in the country, released the research Wednesday in a report called "Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys of Color."
Among the report's findings:
• Hispanic boys and young men were four times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder than Caucasian boys and young men. Black young men and boys were 2 1/2 times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress, the report said.
• The homicide rate for black men between ages 15 and 24 was at least 16 times greater than for young white men. For Hispanic young men, the rate was five times greater.
• Crowding, noise, the lack of safe parks and a lack of social networks contribute to worse mental health among children from poorer neighborhoods than among more advantaged children.
The report should spur discussions about the role neighborhoods play in children's health, endowment officials said. "It was surprising that the problem is so directly tied to where we live," said Robert Phillips, director of health and human services for the endowment.
The report's researchers said institutions -- schools, courts, juvenile justice systems -- often see boys' behavior problems as signs that they are "delinquents or sociopaths rather than a sign of both physical and emotional traumatic injury."
The endowment hopes the information will be used by communities in its Building Healthy Communities Initiative, Phillips said.
The endowment has pledged $1 billion over the next 10 years to help improve the health of children and families in 14 areas of the state through housing, land use and public safety policies and programs.
Fresno and Merced are two of the communities that will receive money. Each expects to get $2 million a year.
Fresno children's advocacy groups said they can use use the endowment's report in their own work.
The children's institute received a $115,000 grant in April from the endowment to study health issues for black, Hispanic and southeast Asian boys in the Valley, Joubert said. The institute, a regional research and advocacy organization, plans to hold a regional children's summit in October, she said.
This week, the Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development sent representatives to Oakland for a statewide meeting on boys of color, said Keith Kelley, president of the community development corporation. Among the topics the coalition is focusing on are education, health, social economics, juvenile justice and youth violence, Kelley said.
The Healthy Communities Matter report combined research from the RAND Corporation, PolicyLink, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice and the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University.
PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social issues, offered several recommendations for community-based solutions, including linking strategies for improving health to those addressing the issues of housing, jobs, schools, violence and crime.