Research shows that in America’s hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices not everyone is treated equally. Minorities routinely have a harder time accessing quality care, experience worse outcomes from the care they receive, and face more financial complications related to their health care. Those circumstances are just a few of the examples of the health inequity, or preventable differences in health between different groups of people, that minorities face.
Consider these facts:
- Areas with the majority of African Americans or Hispanics are more likely to lack health care providers and hospitals due to residential segregation.
- Data from 2018 shows the uninsured rate of African Americans was 9.7 percent compared to a 5.4 percent uninsured rate for white Americans.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, racial and ethnic minorities had higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death.
Shining a light
Many people are surprised to know that such health inequities exist. After all – a doctor’s visit is a doctor’s visit, right? But health disparities for minority groups do exist and actually have a long history rooted in discrimination and racism. And they’re further complicated by economic, social, and environmental factors, genetics, and health behaviors.
These complications and gaps in care contribute to higher rates of chronic illness in minorities which can create a lifetime of poorer health and even shorter lifespans for some people. One study of chronic illnesses including heart disease, asthma, and diabetes, shows that Hispanic, African American, and Native American people are up to two times more likely than white people to experience these chronic conditions.
Studies show that some gaps in care and health equity are improving, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
National Minority Health Month, celebrated every April, shines a light on the health needs of minority groups and helps educate everyone about health inequity. The primary goal is to focus attention on the higher levels of premature death and illness in minority groups and health education.
A long tradition
Awareness is the best place to start. Booker T. Washington must have known that when he established National Negro Health Week way back in 1915. The U.S. Congress officially established National Minority Health Month in 2002.
This year’s Minority Health Month theme is Give Your Community a Boost. As we move into the third year of the pandemic, the focus is on the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots for minority groups. African American and Hispanic people are less likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19 than people in other racial or minority groups. And they’re more likely to get a serious case of COVID-19 or die from the illness. COVID-19 also has more serious effects on other minority groups including Alaska Native and American Indian people compared to non-Hispanic White people.
Raising awareness about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and its availability can improve minority health and save lives. You can play a part. Start by encouraging your family and friends to get vaccinated if they haven’t already and boosted when they’re eligible.
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