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Author: ClinEdge Staff

Apr 19, 2016 •

How to Advocate National Minority Health Awareness Month

Although only April is officially considered to be National Minority Health Awareness Month, inequities in health and wellbeing affect minority communities in America every day. This month is dedicated to encouraging greater awareness about healthcare inequality in the United States that specifically affect people of color.

The breakthrough:

About 30 years ago, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Secretary’s Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health, also known as the Heckler Report, named for its main proponent Margaret M. Heckler. It was the first time HHS documented health information about American Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American populations in a single, comprehensive report. More importantly, it revealed significant health inequities among minorities in comparison to the White population.

Since the Heckler Report was made public in 1985, there has been a considerable amount of effort to create positive health outcomes for minorities. However, there are still immense challenges to overcome:

  • Although overall infant mortality rates have fallen over time, African-American babies are twice as likely to die as white babies, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics from 2000-2015
  • A 2011 CDC report “Health Disparities and Inequalities” showed African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American and Alaska Native populations suffer higher mortality rates than other populations.
  • Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics are 1.7 times and Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Health Inequities in the Black Community:

The HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently published the “2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report: Chartbook on Health Care for Blacks.” Their studies revealed some troubling realities:

  • In 2010, 49% of all HIV-related deaths were among African-Americans. In 2011, the HIV/AIDS diagnosis rate was 15.8 per 100,000 in the general U.S. population, but among African-Americans the rate was 60.4. Moreover, African-Americans diagnosed with HIV are less likely to have access to care, remain in care, or receive adequate treatment.

  • A study that analyzed adults admitted for congestive heart failure by race from 2001-2013 showed that African-Americans were admitted to hospitals twice as often as Whites and other people of color. It also found that at every level of income, African-American adults were almost 3 to 4 times more likely to have congestive heart failure.

  • Between 2005 and 2013, African-American hospital patients admitted with a heart attack were less likely to receive fibrinolytic medication within 30 minutes of arrival. The sole exception was in 2011, when White and Black patients both received this medication within 30 minutes at a rate of 40%.
  • African-American infants are more likely to be born with a very low birth weight (less than 1,500 grams) than Whites and Non-Whites.
  • African-American adults age 40 and over with diabetes were less likely to receive four recommended services for diabetes than Whites.

Social determinants of health are the economic and environmental conditions in which individuals are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age. Minority health outcomes are not only influenced by lack of access to medical care; social determinants such as poverty, lack of access to high-quality education, unemployment, unhealthy housing, unsafe neighborhoods, and other cultural barriers are immense inequities that can prevent individuals from living a healthy life.

Receiving proper medical care and living a healthy lifestyle is essential for fighting illness, but social determinants play a large factor in a community’s wellbeing. For example, to be healthy, families need access to safe playgrounds and parks for exercise, full-service supermarkets to buy affordable fruits and vegetables, living-wage employment to support a healthy lifestyle, and other necessary resources to maintain proper health. Poor social determinants in combination with poor medical care are factors in why minorities are more likely to be diagnosed and die from a disease.

What you can do:

One way to partake in National Minority Health Awareness Month is to learn about the underlying causes of health inequities that continue to affect people of color. Neglecting the results of the studies conducted since the release of the Heckler Report and failing to fully understand how groups of people are deprived of opportunity perpetuates an unequal and unjust system.

If you work in healthcare industry, it may be appropriate to propose initiatives that address health inequity in your community and recommend appropriate ways to increase awareness and sensitivity to issues surrounding minority health. If you have the influence, take a stand against preventable health gaps affecting people of color.

Learn more:

To learn more about efforts being made to reduce health inequity, please visit the sources listed below:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Minority Health (OMH)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality “2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report Chartbook On Health Care for Blacks. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; February 2016. AHRQ Pub. No. 16-0015-1-EF”

The Secretary’s Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health aka The Heckler Report


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