As the United States becomes more diverse, minority populations grow as well. Despite the increasing need for equality in healthcare, gaps in minority health compared to other groups are still noticeable. April is Minority Health Month, making it the perfect time to highlight and explore conditions that may affect you or people you know.
What Are Health Disparities?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies health disparities as preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations. In effect, certain groups may not have the same access to disease prevention and care as other groups. Social and economic factors play a large role in this inequality.
Minority groups are more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards in the workplace as well as at home. These factors, in addition to a lack of affordable healthcare, contribute to the increasing numbers of adverse health conditions in minority populations, including:
- Heart disease
Creating health equality in the United States may be heavily connected to addressing social and economic disadvantages of our minority populations.
The CDC notes the rise in obesity rates in minority populations may be related to:
- Higher rates of food insecurity (limited or uncertain access to adequate food)
- Lack of access to high quality food
- Higher unemployment rates than other groups
- Specifically targeted marketing of unhealthy foods
- Less access to places designated for physical activity
The American Heart Association (AHA) has determined that African Americans and Mexican-American women have a higher rate of obesity than Caucasian women. Obesity increases the risk of developing other dangerous health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expressed concern with the high levels of diabetes in minority groups. Their Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) has stated that people of racial and ethnic minority have a greater chance of developing diabetes, not being able to control it and are likely to experience more complications than white ethnic groups.
OHMME has claimed that Hispanic people are 50% more likely to die from diabetes than those of white ethnicity. The AHA has also spoken out about African Americans, Mexican-Americans, American South Asian Indians and Alaska natives having a higher rate of diabetes than Caucasians in adults over age 20.
The American Heart Association has also taken notice of the increased risk for minority populations to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD). The National Healthcare Disparities Report found that American South Asian Indians/Alaska Natives and Hispanic Medicare patients with heart failure were less able to receive recommended care than white people. Heart disease is preventable as long as risk factors are limited. People living in certain communities may lack the financial ability to minimize their risk factors, such as seeking healthcare, eating heart healthy foods and getting enough exercise.
Asthma also disproportionately affects minority groups. One reason may be related to the environment that some of these families may be forced to live in. With a lack of financial equality comes lack of housing equality. Families of different racial and ethnic backgrounds may be more likely to live in the inner city where traffic and factory pollution is heavier. In fact, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) has stated that African American women are 20% more likely to experience asthma than Caucasian women.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America determined that minority groups may be more likely to be exposed to dangerous contaminants in their homes, such as mold, tobacco smoke and dust mites.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic blood disorder that is most common in the African American population, but is also prevalent in other minority groups, such as Hispanic Americans. All babies born in the United States are tested for sickle cell anemia, as the condition has complications such as severe pain, stroke and organ damage. Affected minority groups may not have access to regular healthcare needed for treatment due to socioeconomic factors. Unfortunately, people suffering from sickle cell anemia may not have the access and ability to properly treat their condition.
Racial disparities are also found in diagnosis of hepatitis C (HCV). The National Center for Biotechnology has found that African Americans have the highest rate of HCV in the United States. This group has twice as many infections than the Caucasian population. Socioeconomic factors have been linked to the lack of prevention and proper treatment of HCV, even though a cure is now available.
HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs)
African Americans have the highest rates of HIV than any other group in the United States, making up about 45% of all HIV diagnoses. In 2014, Hispanics represented about one quarter of new diagnoses in the country. As for other STIs, African Americans accounted for 55% of all gonorrhea cases in 2014. These striking numbers may be related to lack of education and lack of resources for disease prevention.
Although minority groups are still confronted with many of the country’s diagnoses of life-threatening, preventable diseases, there are groups working to solve the root of these issues. Many studies have been conducted to learn more about the health disparity in the United States and will need to be continuously conducted and re-analyzed over time. There is no quick fix for curing the lack of health equity in the country, but education and awareness are the first step in avoiding the problems.
Jai Medical Systems has the support and tools you need to stay healthy. Call our Customer Service Representatives at 1-888-JAI-1999 to learn more about our programs or contact us using our online form.