Om Sakhalkar is a medical student at the Medical College of Georgia. He is the President of the American Medical Association – MCG Chapter and a clinic coordinator at the Asian Clinic.
April is National Minority Health Month. This month is dedicated to raising awareness about the health disparities that many ethnic and racial minority groups continue to face.
Leading causes of death such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and COVID-19 all have significant health disparities.
Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Despite significant decreases in death from heart disease across all racial and ethnic groups, non-Hispanic Black adults are still 23% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white adults, according to a 2019 CDC factsheet.
Non-Hispanic Black adults and Hispanic adults are 24% and 23% more likely to be classified as obese, respectively. Hispanic adults, non-Hispanic Black adults, and non-Hispanic Asian adults are 65%, 51% and 12% more likely to have diabetes than white adults, respectively.
Black Americans are almost twice as likely to have their first stroke as white Americans, with Black Americans having the highest rate of death from stroke among all racial and ethnic groups. While death from strokes has been declining, Hispanics have experienced an increase in deaths from strokes since 2013.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.
Non-Hispanic Black Americans are 11% more likely to die from all cancers than Non-Hispanic white Americans. These racial disparities worsen, often significantly, across certain types of cancer.
Compared to Non-Hispanic white Americans, Non-Hispanic Black Americans are 19% more likely to die from pancreatic cancer, 33% more likely to die from colon and rectum cancer, 36% more likely to die from female breast cancer, and an astounding 107% more likely to die from prostate cancer.
COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death. Non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives have the worst outcomes from COVID-19, being 60% more likely to contract COVID-19, 210% more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19, and 110% more likely to die from COVID-19 in comparison to Non-Hispanic whites.
Hispanics and Latinos are 50% more likely to contract COVID-19, 130% more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19, and 80% more likely to die from COVID-19 in comparison to Non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic Blacks are 10% more likely to contract COVID-19, 140% more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19, and 70% more likely to die from COVID-19 in comparison to Non-Hispanic whites.
While there is some genetic component to these leading causes of death, there are other environmental and personal factors that are largely responsible for these health disparities.
Smoking cigarettes, obesity, undiagnosed mental health problems, lack of physical activity, poverty, lack of access to healthy nutrition and not taking vaccinations are all preventable factors that can lead to several of the above causes of death. However, lack of access to basic preventive healthcare resources is a significant factor affecting minority groups.
For those reading this and thinking “well this doesn’t affect me,” you’re mistaken.
Higher rates of heart disease and COVID-19 makes it harder for you to get access to healthcare when you need it, on top of paying higher taxes and higher insurance premiums to offset all of this.
Richmond County is a medically underserved area, like the vast majority of counties in our state. We have healthcare provider shortages and worse preventive measures of healthcare, making it harder for all of us to receive the healthcare access we need.
When some members of our community live in a food desert, don’t have access to nutritious food and can’t afford health insurance, these members of our community are more likely to have to end up in our emergency rooms and die, while some others pay higher taxes and insurance premiums for worse access to healthcare.
On National Minority Health Month and after this month, I implore you to think about these disparities. I encourage legislators to come up with bipartisan, uncontroversial, cost-effective solutions that reduce these health disparities.
Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 data was accessed on March 30, 2022, and may be subject to change.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: National Minority Health Month: Racial health disparities affect us all