Raising awareness during National Minority Health Month
April is National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minority populations. This is also a time to encourage action through health education, early detection and reduce complications from diseases.
Erica Hill, LMH Health director for Health Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, said inequities in health and well-being disproportionately affect racial minority communities. She provided some history on the origin of National Minority Health Month which is in the 1915 establishment of National Negro Health Week by Booker T. Washington. In 2002, National Minority Health Month received support from the U.S. Congress with a concurrent resolution that “a National Minority Health and Health Disparities Month should be established to promote educational efforts on the health problems currently facing minorities and other health disparity populations.”
Hill shared that this resolution also encouraged health care organizations and Americans to promote healthfulness in minority and other disparity communities through day-to-day actions and programs.
“Barriers to a person’s health and wellness extend far beyond the health sector,” Hill said. ”Everyone deserves the opportunity to be healthy. By working together we are going to be a healthier and stronger community. It is important to recognize that not all health disparities are related to lower income or lack of resources.”
Bridging the health equity gap
LMH Health is building programs to help bridge the health equity gap, as this work is integral to the hospital’s role as a partner in lifelong health. But what is health equity? Hill said one of her favorite definitions of health equity comes from the Robert J. Wood Foundation which describes it as “increasing opportunities for everyone to live the healthiest life possible, no matter who we are, where we live or how much money we make.”
“Advancing health equity and creating the opportunity for people to live their healthiest life possible is at the heart of this community,” she said. “It’s important to address the immediate needs, and it’s also imperative to plan for the future. Early childhood exposure to poor health conditions tends to affect an individual across their lifespan. Education can create opportunities for better health. As a community we must ensure a healthy future for our youth and provide opportunities for quality education and health and well-being.”
Dr. Ashley Bloom, a physician at East Heights Family Care, echoed Hill’s statements. She said as we look at data for life expectancy and severity of chronic conditions, we see minorities are at a higher risk of more severe disease or shorter life expectancy.
Celebrated every year in April, National Minority Health Month: Builds awareness about the disproportionate burden of premature death and illness in minority populations. Encourages action through health education, early detection and control of disease complications.
“National Minority Health Month provides a time for our health system and community to make sure we are advancing and addressing the needs of our patients and community members who are in the minority groups,” Dr. Bloom said. “We also need to make sure we are encouraging those in minority groups to seek care when needed and develop a healthcare plan. Along with that, we need to make sure resources are available to our patients so they can successfully receive this care.”
Primary care is important for all children and adults
She said it is important for children and adults to have a primary care provider to go to each year to check-in on your health. Healthcare management is important. When people get sick, having a provider who knows you makes it easier to help you quickly and efficiently address those concerns.
“It is important as a medical community to know what barriers our patients may have in the way of achieving their health goals,” Dr. Bloom said. “This month helps really shed light on these.”
It is still important, even amidst COVID, to seek medical attention when it is needed, she said. Emergencies don’t wait for pandemics.
“When the vaccine is available to you, we strongly encourage you go get it,” Dr. Bloom said. “The vaccine decreases deaths and severity of illness from COVID-19. Through research we have found the pandemic has disproportionally affected people of color and minorities. We want to be mindful and make sure those who are at higher risk have the facts, have access to the vaccine when it is available to them and know how to get it.”
“All providers constantly seek to improve their care for patients. Health equity makes sure that we also give everyone the chance to achieve their best health,” she said.