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Shining a Light on Health Disparities: April is Minority Health Month

Every April, the United States recognizes National Minority Health Month. This is a crucial time to bring awareness to the health inequalities faced by racial and ethnic minority communities. Minority Health Month is a chance to emphasize the importance of improving health outcomes for minority populations and advocate for solutions to bridge the gap in healthcare access and quality.

The Burden of Health Disparities

Health disparities refer to the unequal burden that certain racial and ethnic groups experience in terms of their health, compared to the majority population.

These disparities happen in various ways, including:

  • Higher rates of chronic illnesses: Minority communities often face an unequal prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that Black Americans suffer the highest overall cancer and death rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the country.
  • Greater risk of complications: Even when diagnosed with a treatable condition, minority patients are more likely to experience complications due to a potentially delayed diagnosis or lack of access to quality healthcare.
  • Social determinants of health: Disparities such as poverty, discrimination and access to healthy food and safe neighborhoods all have a significant role in health outcomes. Minority communities are often more vulnerable to these social determinants, which can negatively impact their overall health.

The State of Minority Health in Arkansas

Arkansas continues to show examples of disparities in health outcomes for people of color. A recent report released by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families states that women of color in Arkansas have an increased rate of morbidity for several conditions, including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Black women are also at a much higher risk for maternal mortality, with 71% of maternal deaths in our state being Black mothers.

Experts say that psychological distress often plays a role in worse health outcomes for minority Arkansans. Generational stress can take a toll on one’s physical health, manifesting through the presence of weakened immune systems, infections, and cancer. According to a recent study, Arkansas is ranked fifth in the nation for total stress. Arkansas citizens of color are more likely to experience generational stress or receive worse levels of medical care, the AACF report states.

Although the disparities are striking, we can take effort to address physical and mental stress in these vulnerable populations. Focusing on health equity is a meaningful place to start. Understanding the problems undermining health equity helps us develop meaningful solutions so no one in our state is missed. Arkansas Blue Cross is working to infuse equity into all our policies and programs. Increasing the quality of care, reducing costs, and improving access for rural and underserved communities will ultimately improve the state of minority health in Arkansas.

Looking Forward: A Collective Effort

Minority Health Month is a powerful reminder that achieving health equity is a shared responsibility. By raising awareness and implementing comprehensive solutions, we can create a healthcare system that ensures optimal health and well-being for all Arkansans, regardless of race or ethnicity.

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