Vermonters demonstrate resiliency and mental wellness

% of adults of color always or usually getting emotional support


Line Bar
Story Behind the Curve

Author: Planning Unit

Last Edited: 5/15/19

Between 2012/2014 and 2014/2016, the percentage of adults of color who responded that they always or usually receive emotional support increased from 68% to 72%, respectively. During that same time period, adults who identified as white, non-Hispanic who responded that they always or usually receive emotional support increased slightly, from 82% to 83%. Adults of color were statistically significantly less likely than white, non-Hispanic adults to respond that they usually or always get emotional support.

Data for this indicator are combined over several years due to the small number of responses. While it is too soon to determine any trends in data among adults of color, it is noteworthy that they consistently report receiving emotional support at a rate over ten percentage points lower that white, non-Hispanic Vermonters.


The Health Department understands that to address this issue we need to partner with traditional public health programs and partners, schools, and social agencies, and we also need to build relationships and share decision-making with organizations that are led by or specifically serve groups of Vermonters who experience inequities and have historically held the least power. They are the experts on their own experience and improving health of groups that experience health inequities and health disparities requires effective partnerships with them. 

Some of our current partners include:

What Works

No single approach alone can increase the number of people reporting that they always or usually receive emotional support. Building this requires a multiprong approach involving all levels of the Vermont Prevention Model. In the State Health Improvement Plan we are doing this by investing in programs that promote resilience, connection, and belonging. Some evidence-based approaches include[i]:

  • Individual: crisis lines
  • Relationships: Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) and early childhood home visiting programs*; mental health first aid; group parenting classes
  • Organizations: youth leadership programs; community centers; Employee Assistance Programs (EAP); Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services; affirmative recruitment.
  • Community: activity programs for older adults; community centers; extracurricular activities for school-aged youth*; Open Streets; social media connections with others with shared experiences; participatory budgeting.
  • Policies and Systems: addressing systems of oppression

*Strategy specifically named in State Health Improvement Plan.


Naming this as an issue in the State Health Improvement Plan is a first step in creating action. Through the State Health Improvement Plan we aim to build meaningful community engagement, develop equitable programs, policies, and budget; and provide respectful care and services. Developing and strengthening relationships with communities and populations that have been historically oppressed and experience health inequities is an important strategy in this work. Helping the Department of Health, Agency of Human Services, and our partners understand and address structural inequity and the need for trauma-informed care is another important aspect in building organizations that can appropriately address the needs of Vermonters of Color. 

Why Is This Important?

Social and emotional support—including living in communities that are cohesive and have social capital—support physical and mental health and serve as protective factors against numerous adverse health outcomes. It can reduce the risk of depression among adults with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)[i],  improve functioning among people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)[ii], reduce the likelihood of violent behavior[iii], and support cardiovascular health. Social isolation and loneliness are also linked to behaviors such as overeating and tobacco use among adults and increased risk of illness, mental health problems, and mortality.[iv]

Many in Vermont pride themselves in being welcoming and trying to create welcoming environment to all. Despite this, due to bias, stereotypes, prejudice, and both implicit and explicit racism people of colordo not always feel welcomed, fully accepted, or part of their communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, or healthcare settings.[v] This process of “othering” can lead to stress, isolation, and a lack of social and emotional support. These, in turn, can affect the social conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play, as well as their mental health, physical health, and health behaviors.

Notes on Methodology

Vermont tracks risk behaviors, chronic disease and health status of adults using an annual telephone survey called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). Vermont participates in the BRFSS along with all other US states and territories with the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( Two years of data are combined for this measure (most recent year is noted in graph) and results are weighted to represent the Vermont adult population (18 or older). The baseline year is 2012, 2014 because the methodology of BRFSS data collection changed in 2011 and is not comparable to earlier years, and the emotional and social support question is only asked in even years.

Adults of color include all adults who identified as Hispanic or a race other than white. Every other year the BRFSS includes a question asking how often the respondent gets the social and emotional support they need.

Scorecard Result Container Indicator Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R I P PM A m/d/yy m/d/yyyy