Did you know that April is Minority Health Month? Every year, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) dedicate the month of April to shed light on the disparities experienced by historically marginalized communities.
What is Minority Health Month?
In 1915, Booker T. Washington established the National Negro Health Week; National Negro Health Week was created in response to findings presented at the Tuskegee Institute that were related to the economic costs of “the poor health status” of Black folks in America. However, since then the focus has broadened to include awareness of health disparities related to all racial and ethnic minorities.
It was not until 2002 that “National Minority Health Month received support from the U.S. Congress with a concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 388) 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.’”
The 2022 theme for Minority Health Month is “Give Your Community a Boost,” in an effort to encourage people of color to receive their COVID-19 vaccination, as the pandemic has disproportionately affected those communities.
What are health disparities?
According to the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, “health disparities are differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, quality of health care and access to health care services that exist across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.”
Health disparities include a range of considerations and can affect both physical health as well as mental health. One of the reasons that Minority Health Month is focused on COVID-19 immunizations and boosters is because of how disparately people of color and low-income communities are impacted by the virus. It’s not that people of color have the highest rates of infection; non-Hispanic White people do. However, people of color are disproportionately represented in COVID-19 cases. That means the percent of cases for people of color are higher than the percent of these populations within the total U.S. population.
These disparities carry across multiple health concerns; thankfully, infant mortality is improving in Cuyahoga County. The sad truth is that the gap in the number of Black babies that die before their first birthday is still higher than all other groups. In 2020, Cuyahoga County infant mortality rate dropped to “7.57 deaths per 1,000 live births,” with a total of only 100 deaths – the lowest it has been in 30 years. However, of those 100 deaths, 73 were Black.
What is the contrast to disparate health outcomes?
That’s called health equity. Health equity is “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health.” The “highest level of health” might look different for every single person, however we must recognize the historical and contemporary oppression and the barriers created by it, as well as identifying and eliminating preventable health disparities.
Part of that occurs at the micro level – like understanding the impact of bias in medicine, identifying new vital signs to screen for “nonmedical factors” influencing health. It also has to occur at the at the community level with health system-community collaboration as well as at the industry level.
Be sure to check out our Community Conversation on May 19 to learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. Register here.