Understanding 4 Health Issues That Disproportionately Affect Minority Populations
April has been chosen by the US Office of Minority Health as National Minority Health Month – a time during which nurses, doctors, and the general public can discuss the health issues, diseases, and other problems that disproportionately affect the minority population of the United States.
The goal of National Minority Health Month is to “Accelerate Health Equity Across The Nation”. This is accomplished by raising awareness of the health disparities that affect minority populations in the US, including lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes and obesity, as well as other diseases that disproportionately affect minorities and people of color, such as sickle cell anemia.
In an effort to join in with the US Office of Minority Health and their mission, we’ve put together an overview of 4 of the health issues in the US that disproportionately affect minority populations. Read on, and learn how minorities are affected by poor health outcomes across our nation – and how you can help.
- Sickle Cell Anemia – African-Americans
Sickle cell diseases such as sickle cell anemia disproportionately affect African-Americans. It has been estimated that the preponderance of the disease is around 1 in 5,000, and it mostly affects Americans of Sub-Saharan African descent.
The numbers behind the disease are staggering. While sickle cell can affect Caucasians and Hispanic-Americans, it’s very rare – only about 1 in 36,000 Hispanic children are born with sickle cell. In contrast, about 1 in every 500 African-American children are affected by sickle cell anemia.
Currently, there is no cure for sickle cell anemia, though symptoms like pain, stroke, and infection risk can be controlled by modern therapeutic drugs and techniques, and the average life expectancy for an individual with sickle cell anemia is 40-60 years.
- Obesity – African-Americans And Hispanic-Americans
Obesity is much more common among African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans than it is among non-Hispanic whites. African-Americans have an age-adjusted rate of obesity at over 48.1%, followed by Hispanics at 42.5%, and non-Hispanic whites at 34.5%.
While non-Hispanic whites in America do struggle with obesity, minority populations are hit much harder by the negative effects of this disease, which can lead to stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and numerous other dangerous mortality factors.
Income disparity is a huge contributing factor to obesity. Minority groups tend to be less wealthy and have less access to high-quality nutrition. Calorie-dense, less-nutritious foods tend to be inexpensive, and low-income populations are often forced to turn to these foods in order to survive.
In addition, low-income neighborhoods rarely have easy access to high-quality supermarkets and fresh produce – making it even more difficult for African-American populations and Hispanic-Americans to get access to healthy food.
- Lupus – African-American Females
Lupus and other rheumatic diseases have been found to be much more common in African-American females than in any other segment of the US population. The incidence rate for lupus among African-American women is nearly three times higher than it is for white women, according to a survey done in Georgia.
Currently, the reason for the increased prevalence of lupus among African-American females is unknown – and remains a mystery to researchers who are studying this autoimmune disease.
The most comprehensive study on lupus and its effects on minority populations were performed by the LUMINA project. The findings of the group suggested that certain genetic factors found in African-American women can pair with environmental and socioeconomic factors, causing a higher risk of contracting lupus-related autoimmune diseases.
There is currently no known cure for lupus, though immunosuppressive drugs like corticosteroids have been shown to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from this disease.
- Diabetes – Hispanics And Native Americans
Diabetes is a huge issue for all Americans – but Hispanic and Native American populations are the most severely affected by diabetes. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Mexican-Americans have an 87% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and Puerto Ricans have a 94% higher risk of developing the disease.
Native Americans are also heavily impacted by diabetes. American Indians are 2.2 times more likely to develop diabetes, compared to non-Hispanic whites.
According to a recent study in Diabetes Care, researchers found that poor glycemic management, low rates of diabetes awareness, and lack of health coverage and the inability to regularly see doctors were all contributing factors in Hispanic populations with type 2 diabetes.
These findings hold true among Native Americans, too – and money is at the heart of these problems. 28.3% of all American Indians and Alaskan natives live below the federal poverty line, as do 21% of all people of Hispanic descent living in the US.
Because Hispanic and Native American populations are poor, they lack access to the health care, food, and information required to avoid diabetes – resulting in extremely high risks of developing the disease.
Understand The Health Challenges Minorities Face – And Do Your Part To Help!
Whether you’re interested in volunteering to raise awareness about lupus, sickle cell disease, diabetes, or obesity, there are plenty of things you can do to get involved.
First and foremost, take a look at the National Minority Health Month website, and see how you can get involved this April. You can learn about resources available to minority populations, and find valuable flyers, posters, and pamphlets that you can use in your hospital, clinic, or practice to raise awareness of minority health issues.
Learn. Take action. Spread the word. By doing so, you can help increase health equity – and encourage better health outcomes for people of every single race and ethnicity.