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Deadly Disparities Are Focus Of Minority Health Month

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

While the health of most Utahns improved significantly over the last two decades, minority populations continue to face higher rates of death and disease. The Utah Department of Health’s (UDOH) Center for Multicultural Health (CMH) is joining forces with other concerned groups to address the problem during Minority Health Month this April.

“We know from years of research which specific health problems plague our different racial and ethnic communities,” said CMH Director Owen Quiñonez. “So we’re taking advantage of the observance to reach out to these groups and all Utahns to educate them on the issues.”

A 2002 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) study found significant variation in rates of medical procedures by race, even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable. It showed that U.S. racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive even routine medical procedures and experience a lower quality of health services.

According to the U.S. Office of Minority Health (OMH), inadequate access to care, poverty, and discrimination are factors that contribute to disparities across minority groups. The IOM and OMH say increasing awareness about the problem is the key to first step in solving it.

During Minority Health Month, CMH and its partners are sponsoring statewide activities, helping agencies with grants, pointing them to available resources, and educating health professionals about the challenges Utah minorities face when trying to access health care. Those challenges include:

• Inadequate prenatal care is two to three times higher among Pacific Islander, African American and American Indian communities than among all Utahns;

• The rate of infant deaths per 1,000 births is 10.6 among African Americans compared to 4.4 per 1,000 for all Utahns;

• Gestational diabetes is 2.3 times higher among American Indians than for all Utahns;

• Adult obesity is 2.3 times higher in Pacific Islanders than among all Utahns; and

• Hispanic/Latinos lack health insurance at three times the rate of all Utahns.

All Utahns can improve their health by:

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• Seeing a health care provider annually and as needed for illness or injury;

• Getting the right immunizations at the right time;

• Preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases;

• Getting more physical activity, eating right and maintaining a healthy weight; and

• Planning pregnancies and getting early and regular prenatal care.

Early screenings are also important:

• Cancer - Pap smears, mammograms and prostate screens

• Diabetes - glucose and A1C tests

• Heart disease - blood pressure and cholesterol checks

“It will take the commitment of everyone in Utah to help eliminate our health inequalities,” said Multicultural Health Network Coordinator Candace Gibson.

Adds Sylvia Rickard, Chair of the Ethnic Health Advisory Committee, “Our health is our most important asset, and we call on the government, businesses, and private citizens to work together on this important issue.”

CMH recently released several reports on the health status of Utah’s five largest ethnic and minority communities: Hispanic/Latino; Pacific Islander; Native American/American Indian; Black/African and Asian. CMH staff members are focusing their efforts on the priority health areas of asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, HIV, immunizations, and infant mortality.