Portland News

May 27, 2024

April is National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month
Photo: Unsplash.com

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By: John Glover (MBA)

April is National Minority Health Month.

This annual observance raises awareness of the ongoing health disparities affecting racial and ethnic minorities. April’s designation as National Minority Health Month serves as a critical platform for addressing the significant health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minorities. Initiated to foster greater public awareness and provoke community action, this observance underscores the various socioeconomic, environmental, and systemic barriers that contribute to unequal health outcomes. These disparities manifest in higher rates of chronic diseases, lower life expectancy, and poorer health outcomes overall among minority populations. 

Throughout the month, health organizations, community leaders, and policymakers engage in dialogues, conduct research, and implement health promotion activities aimed at reducing these inequities. The ultimate goal of National Minority Health Month is not only to educate the public but also to catalyze substantial changes in health policy and practice to ensure equitable health care access and treatment for all individuals, regardless of their racial or ethnic background.

This year’s theme, “Be the Source for Better Health: Improving Health Outcomes Through Our Cultures, Communities, and Connections,” is about understanding how the unique environments, cultures, histories, and circumstances (known as social determinants of health, or SDOH) of racial and ethnic minority and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations impact their overall health.

“I see a real need for healthcare leaders, who are predominately able-bodied white men, to use this month to invest in long term changes that work to fix many of the biases within their organizations and across healthcare. Hospital systems and their cultures are the source of many of the problems that lead to minorities receiving poorer quality care and health outcomes,” says Sarah M. Worthy, CEO of DoorSpace

Biases in healthcare have real and devastating consequences

“We have studies that show minorities receive lower quality care due to unconscious biases and a lack of adequate training. We have studies that show minority clinicians are more likely to experience burnout as a result of these biased experiences. And now we have a recent study by JAMA that shows when physicians are burned out (which we know the majority are), they are more likely to make racist and biased judgment calls. Healthcare leaders need to recognize their decisions and ask themselves what they can be doing differently to improve both the patient experience as well as the employee experience for all of us,” Worthy says.

The theme of this year’s National Minority Health Month, “Be the Source for Better Health: Improving Health Outcomes Through Our Cultures, Communities, and Connections,” emphasizes the importance of cultural competency in healthcare. The focus on social determinants of health (SDOH) acknowledges that the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and age significantly influence their health outcomes. 

By examining how factors such as economic stability, education access, neighborhood and physical environment, healthcare access, and social and community context impact health, initiatives can be more effectively tailored to meet the specific needs of minority communities. Engaging with these communities to understand their unique challenges and leveraging their cultural strengths can foster more resilient healthcare systems that are responsive and equitable.

Sarah M. Worthy’s statement highlights a crucial aspect of tackling health disparities: the role of leadership in healthcare systems. The predominance of able-bodied white men in key positions often leads to organizational biases that can adversely affect minority patients through systemic inequities and discriminatory practices. Addressing these issues requires a deliberate effort to diversify leadership and implement comprehensive bias training programs. Studies, including recent findings from JAMA, indicate that physician burnout can exacerbate racial biases, leading to poorer patient outcomes. This underscores the need for healthcare leaders to critically assess their policies and practices, ensuring they not only address but actively combat ingrained biases, thereby making a significant push towards equality in healthcare access and treatment for all racial and ethnic groups.

 

Published By: Aize Perez

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