Acknowledging Health Through Film at Milwaukee's First Minority Health Film Festival
Before the age of 18, did you have a parent or another adult in your household that often swore at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? Have you ever lived with anyone who’s had troubles with alcohol or drugs? You don’t have to answer these questions, these are just similar questions that are on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) test.
The ACE test was created back in 1985 and it’s a 10-question test about difficult experiences from childhood. According to Dr. Vincent Felitti, founder of the ACE test, a lot of children experience adversities, such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, during their childhoods that affect and impact them as adults.
Individuals with a higher ACE score are more likely to get a chronic disease or have a shorter life expectancy, among other issues.
Felitti’s research shows that kids aren’t just bad. It’s the different adversities that shape a child’s behavior because they eventually adapt to their situation. His research also points towards helping children early on so their issues won’t linger onto adulthood.
It’s research and information like this that needs to be out in the public, which is why the the Milwaukee Film Festival created Minority Health Film Festival presented by Froedtert and The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).
The 2019 Minority Health Film Festival was held from Sept. 12-15 and featured different panels and film screenings all focused on the health of minorities, such as “Resilience”, which discussed the ACE test.
Milwaukee Public Schools Principal Lance Groce spoke on the post panel to discuss the film Resilience and how it relates to Milwaukee and the adversities we deal with.
“Our children as well as our staff are experiencing this on a daily basis within the building itself,” said Groce about the lack of funding, resources and issues that reside in our public schools.
Groce said him and the staff, including teachers, are pressured by systems to be accountable and comply within the system. He said that pressure pushes them to focus on teaching, instead of sometimes taking the time out to focus on the student’s well being.
He said sometimes a student can’t focus on their work. The student could be occupied on trying to process what went down in their neighborhood just a few hours before it was time to get ready for their school day.
“Everything about us is about survival,” said Groce. He said we need to start investing in self care and asking ourselves, our students and those around us, “how are you doing?” Groce added that especially in the African American community, we’ve become numb to the sensitivity and the sensitive needs each of has. But if we take the time out to have real dialogue then we can push in the right direction for a better health not only for our children, but community.
The ACE test and children weren’t the only topics discussed at the festival. The films and panels also talked about confronting past traumas, breaking generational cycles and how minority communities are skeptical about being a part of research.
Panels and films were held throughout downtown at the Pabst Theater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Oriental Theater, Kenilworth Square East Art Gallery and The Back Room at Colectivo.
The MCW Cancer Advisory Board held a panel where they addressed the cancer burdens facing the people who live in eastern Wisconsin. There was also a different paneled discussion that addressed the importance of trauma-informed care. And, even Charlamagne tha God from the Breakfast Club came to speak on his experiences and thoughts about mental health, which he said is his favorite subject to talk about.
The Minority Health Film Festival ended with a paneled discussion and key note speaker. The last panel featured four individuals, including MCW associate professor Dr. Zeno Franco and True Love Outreach Center Director Dr. Dessie Levy.
Dr. Levy stated that for too long people have come into Black and brown communities to get information from us then leave, never including our communities in the process. She stated that we have to be included in the research at the beginning stages not after the fact. Research pertaining specifically to health, in this case.
“It’s very critical that we understand the language in the community,” Levy added. When researchers bring information to the community, it has to be broken down in terms that are familiar and understandable to the community they’re working with.
Dr. Levy said researchers need to focus on how everyone will benefit from the thousands upon millions of dollars granted to do the research. The communities need to be compensated for their time, in some capacity, she said.
According to Dr. Franco, innovation comes from the people who experience the issue(s) the closest. He said 50 percent of (life changing) ideas are locked in the minds of minority communities who don’t get the proper care, resources and attention they need to thrive. When doing his research, Dr. Franco likes to make the assumption that the communities he’s talking to know the problem better than he does.
“There is genius in our communities and that genius needs to come forth in our research,” Dr. Franco said.
Both Dr. Levy and Dr. Franco are working with the The All of Us Research Program, which has the goal of collecting data from at least one million people to hopefully move to a future with individualized medicine and care.
The Minority Health Film Festival is the first in the country of its kind to hold this conversation around health in this way, and it’s sure to grow in coming years. For more information on the Milwaukee Film Festival, click here.