INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Improving health outcomes for Black men led the conversation at the 21st annual Black Males Conference on Tuesday at the Indiana Government Center.
The trickle-down effects of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said, created broader health concerns that need to be addressed. Job loss and evictions brought on by the pandemic, organizers said, also have had broad impacts on people’s mental health.
Organizers say the purpose of the 2021 conference by the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males was to pull together resources to provide support. The theme was “Black Males Health is Wealth.”
Packed with panels, organizations and programs, the daylong conference brought in legislative leaders and Black physicians, including Dr. Jerome Adams, a News 8 medical expert and a former U.S. surgeon general, who spoke virtually.
Conference participant Shanel Poole said, “This is a holistic approach to Black males’ health. So, that means we’re not only tackling the physical component but the mental components, the emotional, the society impact with job loss of employment.”
“Just having some Black male physicians, have transparent dialogue about the overall health of Black males is truly important,” Poole said. “What we know is that we have to see people that look like us.”
The pandemic’s impact on housing and jobs brought to the forefront the ongoing barriers in job access, which include criminal records and expired driver’s licenses.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said, “One of the best ways to do that, to try to help people with mental health, is not only get them involved in services but also give them an opportunity to work.”
The Democrat official said it’s important to treat the whole person, and employment is the foundational to help with success.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure people out here are working and taking advantage of those job opportunities that exist. But a lot of times, those prior felonies or not having a driver’s license prevents people from taking advantage of the jobs that are out there,” Mears said.