The fact that males of color are underrepresented in health professions is an ever pervasive message that those of us involved in pipeline programs and health workforce diversity efforts hear and feel concerned about day in and day out. It is something we are reminded of as we evaluate our program demographics, only to see 10% to 20% of students are African American or Latino males; and yet these are primary subgroups we aim to serve.
In 2009, the Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership (ACHPP) conducted an analysis of the demographics the coalition was serving—and the results were eye-opening. We found there was both a low recruitment and retention rate of African American and Latino males in ACHPP programs, but the reasons for these low numbers were not clear. Therefore, we decided to investigate this issue further through focus groups, where we could hear exactly what young men of color have to say.
From February to April 2010, ACHPP conducted focus groups with young men of color to hear their perspectives and gain in-depth understanding about three primary questions:
We aimed to gain rich perspectives directly from the voices of young men in our programs, as well as those who for whatever reason are not involved in or did not complete a pipeline program. A total of 4 focus groups were conducted with 32 young men of color (YMOC) who represent the key subpopulations that ACHPP programs serve, including students in middle school, high school, community college/college, and Camp Sweeney (a program within a juvenile facility which outreaches, assists and trains at-risk, underrepresented minority youth in health careers). Participants lived in various cities in Alameda County and represented 17 different schools. The largest percentage of participants identified as Black/African American (44%), followed by Latino (20%); others identified as Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN), White/Caucasian, or Other.
The young men provided a wealth of information, touching upon topics such as male identity, role models, and experiences at home, school, and pipeline programs. Our findings focused on key barriers, motivators, and supports needed for YMOC to participate in health pipeline programs and health jobs/careers. The study concludes with specific recommendations so ACHPP programs can address these identified key factors and better recruit and retain African American and Latino males.
In summary, ACHPP will utilize this data and the specific recommendations to improve its health pipeline programs. One focus group participant describes the potential difference that effective pipeline programs can make: “It gave me inspiration and it taught me about the benefits, what you could make if you get into the health profession and it sparked interest that I never had.” It is our hope that the knowledge provided will help our programs provide such an experience for a greater number of young men of color.
With that, we urge you to share your thoughts and experiences on this topic:
Have you seen this problem of recruiting and retaining young men of color in your program? How have you addressed it?
How can pipeline programs specifically cater to needs of YMOC?
What, if any, local or state initiatives address this gap in education and health pipeline programs?
If you are interested in accessing the full report on our focus group findings, please contact the ACHPP office.
Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership
1000 San Leandro Blvd, Suite 200
San Leandro, CA 94577
Nelly Gonzalez: Nelly.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ijeoma Okwandu: Ijeoma.email@example.com
The Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership is a consortium of 17 organizations that aim to increase the diversity of the healthcare workforce by providing mentorship, academic enrichment, leadership development, and career exposure to disadvantaged and minority youth.