October 20, 2017 by John Fernandez
‘Health Equity’ is Goal for Minority Communities
Health equity is when every individual has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But that isn’t the case for many U.S. minorities who grapple with an disproportionately higher share of serious chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease. April is National Minority Health month, a designation intended to bridge health disparities between races, ethnicities and nationalities.
Many in U.S. minority communities, including Hispanics and African-Americans, are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have poor health or die prematurely from health-related causes, including some types of cancers, according to the CDC.
“Health Equity” has been chosen by the Florida Department of Health as one of its seven top priorities, state health officials said in a statement released this month.
“Florida has experienced lower morbidity and mortality rates across several diseases, however gaps continue to exist,” Florida health officials state. “All Floridians regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, geographic location and physical and developmental differences should be able to attain the highest level of health.”
Access to Affordable Healthcare
Lacking the resources to affordable healthcare, or having limited or no insurance, are often cited as major factors in treatment disparities among minorities. Treatable illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, can become unmanageable or fatal when patients lack access to affordable healthcare.
Primary care visits, including regular blood pressure screenings, can prevent manageable health problems from developing into life-threatening situations, says Juliet Vento, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.
“Much of the problem has to do with a lack of access to healthcare because of limited financial resources or insurance status,” says Dr. Vento. “As a result, they tend to enter the healthcare system when the disease is quite advanced. It’s always better if we can start managing these health problems much earlier.”
Cultural habits across generations also play a role in health outcomes. For example, a diet high in carbohydrates, fried foods and salt is common in many Hispanic households, says Dr. Vento. These items can contribute to high cholesterol, prediabetes and heart disease. To start, it is important to aim for a more wholesome diet that is low in fats and salt. And combine improved nutrition with an increase in daily physical activity, she says.
“Sometimes, it’s about changing mindsets,” says Dr. Vento. “It’s about changing our lifestyle in a way that is sustainable long-term. It is also important to get your annual checkups for your age-appropriate screening.”
Baptist Health has opened several new primary care locations with extended hours and has a long history of partnering with community leaders to deliver healthcare to those in need.
For the extended South Florida community, Baptist Health offers free prevention and wellness programs, including health screenings at community events, exercise and nutrition classes, and presentations about heart disease, diabetes management and cancer prevention.