Minorities Shoulder the Highest Risk for Preventable Disease

By Kristine Hartvigsen on April 7th, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women of color are statistically more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States than white women. African-Americans, especially, are at risk; black women are four times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. Furthermore, they’re also about 60% more likely than white women to deliver pre-term babies.

Across the spectrum, minorities experience a disproportionate share of preventable disease, death, and disability compared with non-minorities. Many interrelated factors contribute to the disparity, including education, location, insurance, access to prenatal and preventive care, and socio-economic status.

April is National Minority Health Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about health disparities and efforts to achieve health equity, in which “all people have full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives.” The 2017 theme for this observance is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities.”

The authors of an Amnesty International report titled Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, wrote: “The US government has a responsibility to ensure equal access to quality health care services for all, without discrimination. However, gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, Indigenous status or income level can affect a woman’s access to health care and the quality of health care she receives. The intersection of multiple forms of discrimination can further adversely affect a woman’s access to adequate health care services in the USA.”

The Deadly Delivery report made a number of recommendations, including:

• ensure all women equal access to quality reproductive health services
• have the federal Office of Civil Rights investigate laws, policies, and practices that impede equal access to quality healthcare
• provide women with Medicaid presumptive eligibility while expectant mothers are in the application process for Medicaid coverage
• expand the number of Federally Qualified Health Centers to underserved, rural locations
• upon discharge from the hospital, ensure that all new mothers receive complete information about signs and symptoms of possible post-pregnancy complications and make informed decisions about their healthcare

Armed with good information, we can bridge the health equity gap. Accordingly, the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities produced a helpful guide to help further raise awareness.

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