Shadows of Innocence
The February 2012 publication of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Sexual Violence Prevention in Indiana: Toward Safer, Healthier Communities sheds light on the serious implications of sexual violence in the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Indiana has the second highest rate of forced sexual intercourse among high school students, with 17.3 percent of high school females reporting they have been forced to have sex against their will.
One in five women in Indiana has been a victim of rape at some point in her lifetime, with only 46 percent of sexual assaults and rapes being reported to authorities. These sobering facts prompted Indiana Public Media to produce a documentary on youth sexual assault, Shadows of Innocence: Sexual Assault Among Indiana's Youth. The intent of the documentary is to create awareness on the topic and to prompt discussions regarding the direction of primary prevention in Indiana and the potential policies that could help prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place.
There are ways in which sexual violence can be prevented. Indiana’s Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Plan outlines six goals to better understand and study sexual violence, fund and enhance primary prevention efforts, and broaden awareness within communities. For more information on the State Plan and the work happening in Indiana, visit the Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Program website.
Celebrating National Minority Health Month
April is National Minority Health Month, and this year’s theme is Advance Health Equity Now: Uniting our Communities to Bring Health Coverage to All. Lack of health coverage is one significant social determinant of health that disproportionately affects minority groups, including African Americans/ Blacks, American Indians/ Alaskan Natives, Asians, Hispanic/Latinos, and Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islanders. These groups have higher morbidity and mortality rates than non-minorities for several major health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer among others. For example, the 2009 non-Hispanic black mortality rate for diabetes was almost double the rate for non-Hispanic whites in Indiana. In 2010, Hispanic children in Indiana were more likely considered to be overweight or obese when compared to non-Hispanics. Every person deserves the opportunity to achieve optimum personal health, without social, economic, or environmental barriers. When implemented properly, interventions to reduce or eliminate minority health disparities can be successful.
The National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) strives to eliminate these disparities through strategic partnerships and programs that leverage resources in under-served communities. The goals of the NPA are: awareness, leadership, health system and life experience, cultural and linguistic competency, and data, research and evaluation.
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) further contributes to disparity reduction through the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. HHS will promote integrated approaches, evidence-based programs and best practices to reduce minority disparities. The HHS Action Plan builds on the Affordable Care Act and is aligned with programs and initiatives such as Healthy People 2020 and the First Lady's Let's Move initiative. More information on the HHS plan can be found here.
The CDC Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program supports partners who use community-based programs and culturally-tailored interventions that serve minority populations. Intervention areas are surveyed and the results are published in the Reach U.S. Risk Factor Survey.
Binge Drinking Among Women and Girls
According to the CDC, one in eight women and one in five high school girls binge drink, and it is most common among women ages 18-34. Excessive alcohol consumption can have serious health and social consequences for women and girls. Binge drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks in a row, can put females at risk for conditions like heart disease, cancer, depression, or liver disease. Other serious consequences include violence, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, accidents, or even death.
Primary prevention includes curbing alcohol marketing and sales to minors. Youth drinking is influenced by adults, so adults must model responsible alcohol use to their children. Screening and counseling services are needed to identify those at risk, especially among pregnant women. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to life-long problems for the unborn child.
The US dietary guidelines recommend drinking only one alcoholic beverage per day for women. Click here for more information on the CDC report.