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Diversity Challenge 2013

In Review

Diversity Challenge 2013, Intersections of Race and Culture and Health and Mental Health, focused on some of the complex health, mental health, and educational issues that might be improved or alleviated with more explicit consideration of race and culture in health and mental health research, practice, and policy across diverse settings.  For two days, the Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture hosted more than 110 presentations, symposia, workshops, structured discussions, and posters in a dynamic, positive learning forum.  More than 300 people from around the country attended and participated in the sessions. Featured invited speakers included:

Esteban Cardemil, Ph.D., Clark University

L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D., University of Louisville

DJ Ida, Ph.D., National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

Marcia Liu, Ph.D., Columbia University

Alex Pieterse, Ph.D., Monash University

Melba  Vasquez, Ph.D., ABPP, Indpendent Practice

Mary Walsh, Ph.D., Boston College

Nadia Ward, Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine

Please view our session Abstracts from the 2013 Diversity Challenge.



  View the 2013 Presentation Schedule


Conference Focus

Health and mental health practitioners, educators, and policy-makers have begun to recognize the effects of life experiences on individuals’ health and mental health across the lifespan. Consequently, it is unlikely that one can create effective interventions without understanding how life experiences influence health and physical health outcomes. The link between health and mental health is particularly problematic for people of Color and related immigrant groups because very little evidence is available concerning how life experiences, such as discrimination and socioeconomic status, are related to health and mental health. On the other hand, very little evidence is available concerning what life experiences do or do not give White people health advantages over their counterparts of Color and non-dominant cultural origins.  Evidence pertains not only to research, but also to interventions that practitioners, educators, and policy-makers have used to treat racial-cultural dynamics that affect health and mental health.

Although life experiences associated with race and culture may negatively affect health and mental health, they may also be associated with positive attributes. Specific racial and ethnic cultural communities have a variety of strengths, as well as resiliency and resistance attributes, such as strong social and community support, cultural and spiritual ties, and positive racial identities. Moreover, a number of health puzzles abound, such as why immigrants are healthier when they arrive in this country than they are seven years later or why preschool students of Color exposed to enrichment programs lose their mental health advantage once they enter regular schools.  In examinations of the intersections of race and culture and health and mental health, possible protective factors should not be ignored.

Nevertheless, people of Color often experience racism, prejudice, poverty, and violence, which, in turn, increase the incidence of mental and physical health problems. For example, exposure to racist events increases the likelihood of trauma, depression and anxiety symptoms, which, in turn, have been linked to increased physical health problems, such as risky health behaviors (for example, alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse) or chronic physical illnesses(for example, obesity,  diabetes, and cardiovascular disease). The prevalence of such conditions generally have been attributed to the groups’ racial or ethnic group membership without acknowledging and addressing the impacts of life experiences associated with ascribed racial or ethnic group membership on both the mental and physical health of individuals and communities.

Some relevant life experiences are systemic. Specifically, people of Color, relative to their White counterparts, may be disproportionately affected by barriers to appropriate care, such as difficulty finding services in their native language, stigmatizing and stereotyping by communities and service providers, as well as having to seek services from providers who may be unable to provide culturally responsive care. Additionally, individuals from lower socioeconomic statuses, regardless of race or ethnic culture, may experience barriers to quality care, such as inadequate health insurance, as well as practical concerns, such as lack of transportation, limited time off work, and lack of child care.

Some relevant life experiences that affect the incidences of mental and physical health are cultural. Allegedly individuals from many ethnic cultural groups are unlikely to seek formal medical care, instead preferring informal supports. Furthermore, a person’s perceptions about society’s and her or his own cultural group’s  health beliefs and attitudes often lead to negative attitudes about treatment, thus becoming barriers to seeking help for mental or physical health problems. Additionally, a person’s racial and cultural background may influence how she or he expresses and interprets mental health symptoms, resulting in physical and mental health symptoms being inseparable. For example, among various ethnic groups, emotional and psychological distress supposedly may often be expressed as physical pain, which may include back pain, head and/or stomachaches, and musculoskeletal pain. Yet where is the evidence?

Variations in the ways that people manifest symptoms, regardless of race, may potentially lead to low rates of service use, as well as researchers, practitioners, and policy makers’ failure to recognize the gravity of a person’s condition(s). Moreover, ignoring White people’s race- or culture-related expressions of symptoms of distress simply because they are White may also result in their engaging in risky health behaviors and willingness or unwillingness to seek services, as well as scholars and practitioners’ inappropriate diagnoses and interventions. Virtually no evidence is available concerning whether people who are advantaged by racism or discrimination manifest good mental or physical health as a result.

We seek proposals that focus on research, assessment, interventions, and health policies that move beyond merely comparing racial/ethnic groups to more fully considering the complexity of race and culture as effects on mental and physical health. We welcome proposals that address such issues across the lifespan and focus on specific age groups, such as children and adolescents and adults of all ages. Also, we encourage proposals outlining systemic approaches to these concerns, which may include preventive strategies, school interventions, and agency collaborations that focus on racial life experiences, such as racism and discrimination, and/or cultural attributes, such as resilience and health beliefs.

We envision an interdisciplinary forum in which a variety of perspectives are explored and scientists, practitioners, educators, and social activists can interact with each other in order to address mutual concerns related to this important theme. Proposals are welcome from researchers, practitioners, educators, community organizations, advocacy and activist groups, medical service providers, employee assistance personnel, government agencies, spiritual healers, and providers of community services. Work groups focused on health disparities are also encouraged. Finally, we welcome critical perspectives and creative ideas concerning the role of race and culture in fostering health and mental health in the lives of individuals regardless of their race or cultural origins.

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Suggestions for Proposals

We invite proposals that reflect some aspect of your experiences in treating, teaching, studying, or intervening to understand how race and culture influence the lives of individuals. Although the proposals may focus on any aspect of mental and physical health, all proposals should demonstrate a clear integration of race and culture. Presentations might focus on developments in research, professional practice, education, community activities and activism, and/or social justice initiatives as they pertain to racial and cultural constructs and health and mental health.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, applications of psychological and educational theories of race and culture as contributors to health status as well as current research, education, and practice related to (a) understanding how cultural values or perceived discrimination pertain to mental and physical health of diverse racial and ethnic cultural age groups in the United States, (b) improving the quality of life for children, adolescents, and families in schools and communities by focusing on within-group racial and cultural concepts, (c) community and grassroots initiatives pertaining to addressing the impact of mental and physical health from culturally responsive perspectives, and (d) implementing and evaluating innovative and culturally competent interventions in traditional and nontraditional environments. Strongest consideration will be given to proposals that focus directly on the 2013 Diversity Challenge theme, Intersections of Race and Culture and Health and Mental Health.

Although many topics are germane to the Diversity Challenge theme, some examples that merit an explicit racial or ethnic cultural focus are:

·  Health beliefs as related to health and/or mental health

·  Discrimination, race-related stress, health and/or mental health

·  Immigration and/or acculturation stress, health and/or mental health

·  Within-group sociodemographic intersections (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status)

·  Sociopolitical contexts as related to symptoms of health and/or mental health (e.g. military, justice system,  schools, social service agencies, employment status)

·  Media portrayal of health and/or mental health topics

·  Effects of race-related or culture-based coping strategies on health and mental health

·  Evidence-based culturally responsive interventions

·  Researcher, clinician, or educator biases

·  Treatment outcomes as related to health and mental health (e.g., service utilization, barriers, coping strategies) of various ethnic groups

·  Research and assessment related to health and/or mental health

·  Health and/or mental health across the lifespan (e.g. family health, generational health)

·  Global health and/or mental health

·  Help-seeking attitudes

·  Sexual and reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases

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Conference Formats

Workshop (90 minutes) - An intensive presentation intended to share specific research, educational, social policy, or mental health experiences and/or skills, or empirically based knowledge about racial and cultural factors in treatment, research, and policy with an interactive and experiential focus.

Symposium Panel (90 minutes) - Three to five participants present individual papers with a shared racial and cultural theme from different perspectives. Symposium proposals typically have a chair and discussant.

Individual Presentation (15 to 30 minutes) - Formal presentation of theoretical, practical, policy issues, or research related to program development, mental health issues, community and school initiatives, and overcoming systemic barriers as experienced by individuals of all ages. Papers may be grouped together around similar themes by the conference organizers.  Typically, 3-4 presentations will share a 90 minute block.

Structured Discussion (45 minutes) - Conveners present a theme relating to some aspect of racial or cultural factors and facilitate group discussions intended to generate new ideas and solve related problems.

Poster - Presenters display information with a racial or ethnic cultural focus intended to share information, interventions or research skills, or other experiences relevant to racial or cultural dynamics.

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