April is National Minority Health Month, a time to spread the word about health disparities that impact racial and ethnic minority groups and work together to come up with solutions to these issues. National Minority Health Month was first recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2001 due to clear growing disparities in health between minority and majority communities. These disparities include health coverage, quality of life, and life-expectancy. Each year a theme is selected, and in the past, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has chosen themes like physical fitness, health education, and mental health. This year’s theme is vaccine readiness (#VaccineReadiness) to help ensure minority communities are receiving equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Long-standing systemic problems have put people from minority groups at an increased risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Inequities such as poverty, health care access, and socioeconomic status have placed an increased burden upon disadvantaged minority populations during this pandemic. In Georgia, majority-Black counties have an average COVID-19 case and death rate double the national average. Majority-Hispanic counties have an average case rate 40% higher than the national average and a death rate about 7% higher than the national average. Meanwhile, in non-Hispanic white counties, the case rate is about 30% less than the national average and the death rate about 50% less. These disparities highlight the need to prioritize vaccinating communities of color quickly.
This month we encourage everyone in the medical community to redouble their efforts to ensure minority communities feel that their health needs are being addressed adequately. At UHRU, our mission is to help medically underserved populations access the same basic health care resources that more medically advantaged communities are able to access easily. Medically underserved regions have minority populations that are significantly more disadvantaged when it comes to accessing care than minority populations in less underserved regions. One way to decrease this disparity is to increase health education, screening, and prevention services in underserved regions. These are all initiatives we are currently working on at UHRU.
Another way to improve the health of minority communities is to encourage every community member to engage in positive health behaviors like getting vaccinated, screened, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. We encourage all health care providers and medical professionals to use their influence to help change the health disparities faced by minority communities. To learn more about what you can do to participate in National Minority Health Awareness Month, please visit the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Website https://www.nimhd.nih.gov/programs/edu-training/nmhm/.