April is traditionally a time of the year filled with rain showers and egg hunts. It’s also the time of the year when we commemorate National Minority Health Month with a focus on how we work to accelerate health equity and eliminate health disparities throughout our communities.
What are health disparities?
According to the CDC, health disparities are differences in health outcomes and their causes among various population groups. There are countless examples to illustrate disparities in care but one, in particular, continues to dishearten me: Studies show that African American children are more likely to die from asthma compared to non-Hispanic White children. To reduce the overall number of deaths from asthma, it makes sense to work towards reducing African American children’s death from asthma. In other words, if we work towards reducing health disparities we will create better health outcomes for all Americans.
What is health equity, and why is it important?
Health equity goes hand in hand with health disparities as it is an inclusive term that uplifts the possibility that everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. It’s important for communities and businesses to think about health equity because health is central to human well-being. Going a step further, communities and companies must think about health disparities and health equity because health is a vital contribution to economic progress according to the World Health Organization.
April 2017 Theme for National Minority Health Month
Every year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chooses a theme for National Minority Health Month. The theme for 2017 is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities, emphasizes the collaborative, community-level work being done across the nation to help health equity.”
Most of us are aware that the conditions that we are born into have a remarkable effect on our health. In fact, research demonstrates that improving population health and achieving health equity will require broader approaches that address social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health. The theme this year aims to address that issue. Communities have health outcomes based on the condition in which the individuals that make up the community live, grow, and work. The department of Health and Human Services is highlighting partner initiatives in communities that are combatting these conditions. Organizations that focus on education, health, justice, housing, transportation, employment and nutrition all help “build bridges” to help end disparities in healthcare.
Overall, Saint Onge, a professor of health policy and management at KU Medical Center, said it best when he said, “It’s understanding how people’s habits are connected, but are also associated with opportunities and constraints. Health behaviors take a variety of forms, but you can’t ignore an individual’s social and cultural backgrounds in understanding why people engage in certain patterns of behavior.”