From Baptist Health South Florida
3 min. read
April is National Minority Health Month.
Every year heart disease, cancer and chronic conditions claim a heavy toll on all Americans, but minority communities — especially the African-American and Hispanic communities — are especially hard hit by chronic illnesses, according to federal and state data.
“Despite great improvements in the overall health of the U.S. population, health disparities remain widespread among members of racial and ethnic minority populations. Members of these groups are more likely than [non-Hispanic] whites to have poor health and to die prematurely [from health-related causes],” according to a report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
But there is hope, medical experts say. Preventive care is crucial, says Jose Soza, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care located in the Kendall Town & Country office.
“With lifestyle changes, we can prevent many chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” Dr. Soza says.
On a state level, the Florida Department of Health has designated April as National Minority Health Month, with the theme: “Building Healthy Communities: Accelerating Health Equity throughout Florida.”
Nationwide, “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation” is the 2016 federal slogan. The goal is “to reduce disparities, advance equity, and strengthen the health and well-being of all Americans.”
This year’s observance takes place during the 30th anniversary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health.
Chronic illnesses — especially heart disease, diabetes and hypertension — represent a major health crisis, for different minority groups, especially African Americans.
Treatable illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, can become unmanageable or fatal when patients lack access to affordable healthcare, says Yvonne Johnson, M.D., medical director of quality for Baptist Health Quality Network, a clinically integrated network of healthcare providers working together to improve the health of their patients and the quality of healthcare overall.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to fatal or debilitating strokes or heart attacks. But primary care visits, including regular blood pressure screenings, can prevent manageable health problems from developing into life-threatening situations. Likewise, cancer treatments are most effective and life-saving when the disease is detected early, she adds.
“The most advantageous way of managing chronic illnesses is to have a primary care doctor who manages your health, rather than waiting until you feel bad and are visiting the ER,” says Dr. Johnson, who is also co-medical director of the Emergency Department at South Miami Hospital.
Primary care focuses on improving a patient’s health and well-being through preventive, proactive medical care. By partnering with the patient, primary care physicians provide consistent, comprehensive care for all stages of an individual’s life.
“The challenge to the medical community is to improve access and broaden the hours that primary care offices are open to patients,” she says. “That’s one of the things we are working on with the Baptist Health Quality Network. We’re encouraging physician offices to have nontraditional office hours, including Saturdays, early mornings and evenings.”
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. In 2007, for example, South Miami Hospital—a Baptist Health facility—joined forces with the City of South Miami to establish South Miami Children’s Clinic, a free neighborhood clinic that annually serves 1,200 uninsured or under-insured children who live in South Miami.
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.
The relationship between a primary care physician and a patient is like a marriage or valuable partnership, he says. In a health partnership, each side must be committed to well-being.
“You do your 50 percent. I do my 50 percent. But if one or the other partner doesn’t comply or do their part, the marriage does not function,” he says.
Dr. Soza recommends patients follow these guidelines for good health:
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