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Posted on: July 23, 2019

Marginalized Douglas County residents identify barriers to quality employment

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“Implicit bias is so powerful. Immediately you walk up, and people are already making assumptions about you.” 

 “I’m who I am, but I can’t be completely who I am because of who I work with.” 

 "Because I'm a woman of color, there’s a glass ceiling in organizations because no one looks like you in leadership.”

 “I’ve once missed a week of classes because I couldn’t afford gas to go to school. This affects my education and my employment.”

 “A barrier is that it’s a wealthy town; daycare is not affordable.”

These sobering quotes from Douglas County community members illustrate barriers they face in obtaining and maintain employment beyond a minimum wage and how it can influence their health.

As part of the Healthy Communities Initiative, funded by the Kansas Health Foundation, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department in partnership with an interdisciplinary group of community members and representatives between fall 2018 and spring 2019 interviewed 100 Douglas County residents living in public housing and receiving housing vouchers.

You can read the full report here.

“We focused on empowering and hearing from people who felt marginalized,” said Christina Gentry, the Health Department’s Community Liaison. “The most commonly reported barriers to employment included discrimination, lack of educational opportunities, lack of transportation and child care.”

The findings are important, Gentry said, because income is a social determinant of health and the Health Department’s 2018 Health Equity Report identified health disparities both by race and income in Douglas County.

Gentry and Ruaa Hassabala presented their findings in July to the Poverty and Jobs workgroup of the Douglas County Community Health Plan, and they are continuing to work to spread awareness and engage community members in solutions to these issues. In the next phase of the project, facilitators are seeking to grow the team so that at least of its leadership team members represent the focused population and can help expand the capacity to change these conditions in the community.

If you are interested in learning more or becoming involved, please contact Gentry at 785-856-5349 or cgentry@ldchealth.org.

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