April is National Minority Health Month

Striving for Health Equity for All

The theme for National Minority Health Month in 2017, Bridging Health Equity Across Communities, focuses on the need to work toward health equity for all. As family physicians and leaders, you are uniquely positioned to help raise awareness to patients and populations about health disparities impacting your communities.

Partnering for Health Equity

Many racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other groups experience health inequities that are evident for many diseases and health conditions. Factors that drive health inequities (often called social determinants of health) are associated with social, economic, and environmental disadvantages. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are defined as “the conditions in which persons are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the health care system.”1

In order to raise awareness and work towards health equity for all, each year the AAFP participates in National Minority Health Month (minorityhealth.hhs.gov)(minorityhealth.hhs.gov). The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) partners with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial groups by calling for a renewed commitment to eliminate health disparities among minority groups and achieve health equity. The 2017 National Minority Health Month campaign theme is Bridging Health Equity Across Communities.

Linking Social Determinants of Health to Inequities

Research studies have shown that health disparities among racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other groups serve as a barrier to health equity across a wide range of diseases and health behaviors. For example:2

  • Non-Hispanic blacks are at least 50% more likely to die of heart disease or stroke prematurely (i.e., before 75 years) than non-Hispanic whites.
  • The prevalence of adult diabetes is higher among non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and those of mixed race than among Asians and non-Hispanic whites. Prevalence is also higher among adults without a college degree and those with lower household incomes.
  • Substantial disparities exist in the prevalence of obesity by race and ethnicity, sex, and education level.
  • Persons living in rural census tracts were approximately four times as likely to lack access to a healthier food retailer than persons living in urban tracts.
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites have the highest drug-induced death rates.2

Despite gaps in health care among racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other groups, awareness of health disparities is lacking among the general public.

As leaders in your communities and the medical specialty that treats more diverse populations than any other medical specialty, family physicians have an important and uniquely qualified role in reducing health inequities.

Along with the AAFP, family physicians can advocate for public policies at the federal, state, and local levels that protect all individuals from health risk. These might include promoting:

  • The restriction of environmental contamination;
  • Access to high-quality health care and insurance coverage;
  • Access to healthy food options;
  • The use of vaccinations and other public health initiatives;
  • Economic development and fair access to employment; and
  • Equal opportunities for high-quality education for all.

Organizations across the nation are invited to join efforts to raise awareness of the health disparities that continue to affect racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and begin working together to accelerate health equity.


References

World Health Organization. Health topics. Social determinants of health. http://www.who.int/topics/social_determinants/en/. Accessed April 4, 2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC health disparities and inequalities report – United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(3):4-186.