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Addressing Racial Health Disparities

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Tennessean on Friday published an editorial and several opinion pieces that discussed health disparities among minorities, women in particular. Summaries appear below.


As research from CDC indicates that the minority groups "currently experiencing poorer health status are expected to grow as a proportion of the total U.S. population," the "future health of America as a whole will be influenced substantially by improving the health of ... racial and ethnic minorities," a Tennessean editorial states. The editorial notes that a four-day conference being held by the Meharry Medical College and Heart and Soul Magazine aims to "address the significant health disparities in HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and obesity among women of color." According to the editorial, the conference "should be a positive step toward eliminating" health care disparities, but people, including minority women, must also participate in the conference "and see what they can do to empower themselves and their community to make positive changes when it comes to their health" (Tennessean, 10/17).

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Opinion Pieces

* Stephanie Coursey Bailey: The solution to eliminating health care disparities between white and minority women "lies not just in the vaccinations, exams or tests that a person gets, but also in how society, communities and professionals regard the problem and address" it, Bailey, chief of CDC's Office of Public Health Practice, writes. She adds that the implementation of public policies that "ensure safer housing, better schools, higher educational attainment and better jobs for all Americans in a healthy and growing economy" will help address the issue. She concludes, "Starting with effective public policies and increased social solidarity, assuring 'health in ALL policies' gets us beyond the narrow scope of 'health care' and acknowledges the importance of -- and improves the potential impact of -- social determinants in overall health" (Bailey, Tennessean, 10/17).

* Valerie Montgomery Rice: Health care disparities "appear to be a self-contained problem among women of color," but "race and ethnicity are not mutually exclusive factors," Rice, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the Meharry Medical College's School of Medicine, writes. She notes that income, education, genetics, behavior, access to health care, environment and availability of culture-based care also contribute to disparities, which in essence "affect all of us." She calls for finding ways to provide access to care for the uninsured and underinsured and focusing the health system on prevention and wellness (Rice, Tennessean, 10/17).

* Elizabeth Williams: "Making the health of women of color visible in the public's mind is one good way to eliminate health disparities," Williams, an associate director of minority affairs at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, writes. Williams said that minority women must be "proactive" about their own health and also must educate others about health and disease prevention, become "trained as scientists and health professionals to ensure high-quality care for women of color and everyone else" and be vocal on "critical decisions about day-to-day issues that affect health, whether on legislative committees, in boardrooms, on church pews or around kitchen tables" (Williams, Tennessean, 10/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.