By the month of April, most of us have established a routine for the year, and crack a joke or two with friends and family in the spirit of April Fools. However, in the United States, April is also a time to pull focus and boost awareness on issues specifically related to minority health.
According to Britannica, the definition of a minority is, “a culturally, ethnically, or racially distinct group that coexists with but is subordinate to a more dominant group.” In the United States, this is characteristic of various cultural and ethnic groups, like African Americans who make up only 13% of the population.
April is known as Minority Health Month, and the mission is to educate communities of colour on proper health and wellness practices, such as regular check-ups for early detection of disease prevention. In this post, we’re shining a light on the health concerns of minorities, which are often overlooked, ignored or underestimated.
What is Minority Health Month?
The origin of Minority Health Month dates back to 1915 when Booker T. Washington – an African-American educator and advisor to several U.S presidents – initiated National Negro Health Week in an effort to raise awareness around the health issues that impact Black communities.
Unfortunately, many of those health issues affecting minorities are still overlooked to this day. Most of these pressing health conditions and diseases largely impact Black women and the Black community at large. Thus the goal of the month is to eliminate the disproportionate strain of premature death and preventable diseases within these populations.
What are the Main Health Issues Affecting Black Communities in the US?
According to the data collected by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), these are some of the diseases and illnesses affecting minority groups:
According to an article on SELF.com, Black women are disproportionately affected by heart disease more than any other disease. More than breast cancer and lung cancer combined, heart disease is the number one health issue affecting Black women. Heart disease can show up in the form of heart failure and cardiac arrest, which can later be linked to other health issues such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Between 2014 and 2018, studies according to the Office of Minority Health Resource Center showed that Black women have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined.
Studies have found that the Black community is more often impacted by type 2 diabetes than any other racial group. Diabetes had been linked to other health complications such as kidney damage, and heart disease, and can worsen with illnesses like COVID-19.
While type 2 diabetes is a common condition within this community, you can be comforted by the fact that with proper measures, exercise and healthy eating, this is one illness that can be prevented.
Unfortunately, minorities (especially Black women) are faced with an overwhelmingly high burden of the negative social determinants of health. These include stress-related factors such as systemic racism, the wealth gap, and socio-economically disenfranchised communities in which they live and raise their children.
These are the types of challenges and factors that prevent minorities from making their health a top priority. This speaks to a wider issue in the disparities that result in health outcomes from one group of people to another.
A Call to Action: What Can You Do?
Simple changes to one’s daily routine can help transform your lifestyle and your health in order to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and other illnesses. The first step is to educate yourself. For example, understanding the benefits of physical fitness and knowing how active you should be, can help you maintain good health and improve your overall quality of life.
In order to close the gap between health disparities among races, there needs to be a lot more education and awareness about the importance of health within these communities.
Additionally, while it’s important for patients to feel empowered to advocate for themselves, doctors must also have the proper education on how to engage, speak to, and care for their minority patients given their cultural backgrounds in order to combat implicit biases.
Summary – Minority Health Matters
In summary, Minority Health Month is all about advocating for health equity, which is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible throughout their lives.
Presently, minority groups in the US, and Black women in particular, face a disproportionate burden of illness, including heart disease. April is dedicated to raising awareness to help empower minority groups to have healthier experiences and live healthier lives.