April is nationally recognized as National Minority Health Awareness Month. This year's theme is "Bridging Health Equity Across Communities".
In order to properly discuss minority health, there are a few key terms that are important to know and understand.
Health Equity - The highest level of health for ALL people
Health Disparity - A difference in health that is typically associated with social and/or economic disadvantage.These differences are the result of systematic disadvantages incurred due to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, age, disability status and others.
Social Determinants of Health - Environmental conditions in the spaces in which people work, live, play, worship and learn which can affect health and quality of life. These can include the safety of neighborhood, the amount and distance of grocery stores, number of parks in an area, etc.
These are all key components of minority health and well being. The health of all people, but especially of people of color, is not based solely on the decisions that individual people make regarding their health. The environment around them, the discrimination they may experience for any given reason also plays a major part in people's health.
There are several players and roles in achieving health equity:
It is important that health care providers deliver their services in ways that are culturally and linguistically supportive of their patients. This means that they need to have interpreter services available and that they need to understand the various cultures of their patient population.
In the public health sector, policies must continue to be put into place to decrease the negative affects of the social determinants of health. This includes policies to provide adequate access to healthy food options, safe communities and health care providers for all communities.
At the government level, it is our countries leaders' responsibility to provide adequate healthcare coverage at affordable rates for everyone, stabilize the job and housing market and work to end the systematic oppression that is felt by many of the people who do not look like those is power.
At the community level it is our responsibility to work together to keep our neighborhoods safe and clean, to look out for one another and to petition to our government officials to do their part in achieving health equity.
This list is not comprehensive but it is a starting point for a discussion. People of color are less likely to get the preventive care needed to stay healthy, less likely to receive quality care, and more likely to face poorer health outcomes; health equity is long overdue. If you want more information and would like to know some ways that you can get involved, visit the Office of Minority Health website.
Improving our health literacy so that we all may live healthier, more abundant lives.