April is Minority Health Month and this year’s theme is “Active and Healthy”
April is minority health month, and while minority communities continue to increase in population size, the unfortunate truth is that these groups often face significant health disparities. Research shows that health disparities among racial and ethnic groups serve as a barrier to health equity across a range of diseases.
For example, African Americans are 77% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than White Americans. The mortality rate from breast cancer for African American women is nearly 40% higher than for White women. And Latinos are more than two times as likely to have asthma compared to non-Hispanic Whites. These findings raise a very alarming question: why do some communities have better health outcomes than others? The answer lies within a community’s social determinants of health.
The Impact of SDoH on Minority Communities
According to the CDC, only 10% of factors affecting premature death are actually related to clinical care, and 30% of factors relate to genetics. The remaining 60% of factors impacting premature death are based on a combination of social and environmental factors (20%) and behavior (40%). These factors are known as social determinants of health (SDoH). SDoH are the conditions in which people live and work in and they can hinder an entire communities’ ability to improve their overall health outcomes.
National Minority Health Month provides a chance to bring awareness to the inequities that affect minority communities. Everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, should have an equal opportunity to positive health outcomes.
The Link Between Physical Activity and Health Outcomes
This year’s theme for minority health month is “Active and Healthy” and seeks to raise awareness about the impact of an active lifestyle on positive health outcomes. Studies have shown that incorporating even small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can have a positive effect on overall health. Physical activity promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases and other conditions that are more common or severe among racial and ethnic minority groups.
However, some minority communities do not have access to options for physical activity, and ultimately, their health is adversely affected by their social circumstances. Without access to areas for physical activity, minority communities face the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle. According to a 2016 study, reasons for low physical activity include:
- Less access to facilities (e.g., gyms, parks & recreation facilities)
- Less time to engage in recreational activities
- Lower levels of education (i.e., lack of knowledge about health and health behaviors)
- Higher levels of stress
- Perceived or actual lack of safety in neighborhoods
How Community Partnerships Can Help
Through innovative social programs, healthcare organizations (HCOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) can come together to address the health disparities that exist within minority communities. By implementing programs that specifically target minority communities, HCOs and CBOs can fill the gap. For example, through the CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, state and local health departments, tribes, universities, and community-based organizations are awarded funds to plan and implement programs to address health issues among African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders.
One 2018 recipients is Oregon’s Multnomah County Health Department. With the funding, Multnomah County utilized nutrition, physical activity, and community-clinical linkage strategies to reach African Americans in NE Portland, East Portland, East County/Gresham areas of Multnomah County, OR. The goal of the program is to improve health equity in chronic disease for at least 75% of the local African-American communities in the area.
This year’s National Minority Health Month not only raises awareness for minority health, but it also reminds us that collaboration between healthcare organizations and community-based organizations can work. By bridging the gap between clinical and nonclinical services, health equity is achievable.
If your organization is interested in developing a collaborative network of health leaders to support your social determinants of health program, Healthify can help. Healthify offers end-to-end solutions that help health systems and health plans develop partnerships with community-based organizations. If you're interested in learning more about community partnerships, check out our white paper, Overcoming Obstacles: Challenges & Solutions for Providers Addressing SDoH. In this white paper, we explore some of the central challenges providers face when addressing the social determinants of health, including engaging in partnerships with CBOs.