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In-Depth Interview: Science Journalist Suzanne Bohan Shares Strategies to Address Poverty, Health Disparities and Other Ills

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Author Suzanne Bohan talks about her new book, Twenty Years of Life: Why the Poor Dies Earlier and How to Challenge Inequality.Bohan was a Bay Area newspaper reporter for 12 years, culminating in an award-winning series called “Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters”.  It showed that health, education and opportunity can be analyzed by zip code. More info here.

That investigation informs Bohan’s book, which profiles a series of community efforts funded by the California Endowment’s program called Building Healthy Communities.

We start in Richmond, California the refinery town dominated by Chevron that was once one of the most dangerous communities in America.  A variety of efforts, including an innovative park renewal and a focused effort to reduce gun violence have shown dramatic results.

Bohan exposes how “zero tolerance” policies in high schools peaked about 2010 when California schools suspended and expelled more students than those who graduated.  Because African Americans were 31% more likely than whites to face suspension or expulsion, the impact on minorities was extreme.  There was major resistance from political leaders and educators to make change, but the effort produced new laws to reduce the use of extreme discipline.

We talk about a group of high school students in the minority City Heights neighborhood in San Diego, where resourceful political engagement got them the skateboard park they had long sought.  We discuss the impact of childhood trauma on young people, and touch on chronic absentee kindergarteners in the poor, white community of Crescent City.

Your humble host recommends this book for activists, community organizers, and change agents.

This interview is the audio from an interview for Marin TV.