A program in Alameda County is simultaneously expanding the health care workforce, creating linkages between communities and the health care system, and even addressing some of the cultural and socioeconomic indicators of health issues.
The Emergency Medical Services Corps, initially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides emergency medical technician (EMT) training to young men from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds so that they can gain sustainable jobs, support their families, and improve the health of those around them. In addition to the EMT training, the program offers supports for mental health, life coaching, and general health services. Proponents argue that the services provided by EMS Corps graduates are enhanced because they recognize the dynamics of the community they are from and now work in and can connect better with patients.
This program is one of many aimed at improving the health and success of boys and men of color, who disproportionately face issues with the juvenile justice system, education, and some health problems. President Obama recently announced the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which offers mentoring and other opportunities to develop skills for this population. The California Endowment plans to spend $50 million through the Sons and Brothers program over the next seven years on efforts to advance the wellbeing of boys and men of color, including connecting them to health insurance.