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Originally Posted On: Why Are Chronic Diseases More Prevalent Among Minorities? – Esperança (esperanca.org)
Social justice must be all-encompassing. In June 2020, the life expectancy of whites was 78 years. For African Americans, it was 72.
One major reason why is the prevalence of chronic disease among minority communities. Every BIPOC community faces racial disparities that play a role in the social determinants of health affecting chronic disease rates and outcomes.
What are the main problems facing African Americans? What obstacles do Hispanic/Latinx, Asian American, and Indigenous American communities face? What are the causes and solutions for chronic disease disparities?
Answer these questions, and you can help promote social justice in the health sector. Here is your quick guide.
Chronic Disease Amongst African Americans
A 2020 CDC meta-analysis performed reserach on literature related to chronic disease. The authors screened through more than 9,000 articles about African Americans and their final analysis focused on 114.
Many health organizations focus on conditions like diabetes and cancer. Yet the CDC found that 70 percent of articles talked about symptoms and diagnosees related to depression.
African American high school students are 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide. But they receive mental health resources at half the rate that white students do.
Physical health disparities are also prominent. African Americans die from asthma attacks nearly three times more often than their white counterparts.
African Americans are more likely to live with high blood pressure than whites and have far higher rates of heart failure.
Hispanics and Latinx People
The Hispanic and Latinx community suffers from several chronic disease disparities. More than 80 percent of Hispanic people are obese or overweight. This is ten percentage points higher than the rates for non-Hispanic communities.
Hispanics and Latinx people are diagnosed with diabetes more often than whites. They also experience more significant side effects including kidney failure and vision loss.
Hispanics are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than their white counterparts. But they are at a higher risk for cancers that originate from infectious agents. Human papillomaviruses can cause cervical and stomach cancer.
Health disparities amongst Asian Americans often go unreported, but they face substantial inequities as well.
87 percent of tuberculosis (TB) cases in 2018 occurred within minority communities. 35 percent of all cases sickened Asian Americans. Their TB rate is 31 times higher than that of whites.
Asian Americans are two times more likely to develop hepatitis B than whites. They are nearly eight times more likely to die from it. This is in spite of high vaccination rates for hepatitis and other diseases.
Asian American women are at high risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis. They can also develop severe skin diseases.
Indigenous peoples’ life expectancy is 5.5 years shorter than the national average. This is because Indigenous people and Alaskan natives face a great deal of disparities.
Indigenous people are 1.7 times more likely to die from suicide. Indigenous women aged 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide of any ethnic group in the United States.
Alcohol-induced diseases are 6.6 times more common amongst Indigenous people than whites. Chronic liver disease is 4.6 times more common.
Influenza and pneumonia are nearly two times more common. These are diseases that are easily treatable and survivable.
Why Chronic Disease Disparities Exist
The biggest reason why disparities exist is racism. The bodies of African Americans were exploited for medical research. After the Civil War, their bodies were used for dissections.
Eugenics laws targeted women of color for sterilization. Even after these laws were repealed, African American and Indigenous women were sterilized.
Many medical organizations violated ethical practices. The Tuskegee study involved injecting hundreds of African American men with syphilis. Doctors tracked their symptoms, but they did not care for them.
This long history of racism continues today. A 2016 survey examined racist ideas amongst doctors.
It found that 50 percent of doctors believed racist ideas about African Americans. They also prescribed less pain medication for African American patients.
Many people of color distrust doctors because of medical racism. Transgenerational trauma caused by medical racism may fuel their mental health conditions.
Lack of insurance is another major reason. Only 50 percent of Hispanics have insurance coverage. 75 percent of non-Hispanic whites do.
Many BIPOC people get denied jobs or promotions because of their skin color. This keeps them from having the financial ability to access medical care.
How Disparities Can Be Overcome
For the United States to achieve true health equity, the condition of all people must improve. The disparities amongst Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Indigenous people must be publicized, acknowledged and remedied by making systematic changes.
Medical organizations should recognize their complicity in white supremacy. They should apologize to communities of color. They should publish documents accounting for all of their historical racist policies.
State boards of health should make education a component of their certification process. Doctors should participate in anti-bias training. They should also study the history of white supremacy and medical racism.
Increasing access to culturally diverse healthcare amongst minority communities should be a priority. Organizations should make premiums smaller.
Colleges and universities should provide scholarships to BIPOC medical professionals. These scholarships should include nursing and specialized programs.
Minority Health Month is celebrated in the United States every April. Health organizations should use the opportunity to raise awareness.
Fighting racism itself will help health outcomes. It will diminish transgenerational trauma, in turn reducing mental health problems.
Build a Just Future
Chronic disease disparities are the stain that remain from centuries of racism and inequity in America.
African Americans experience high rates of suicidal thoughts and kidney disease.
The Hispanic/Latinx community faces diabetes, while Asian Americans suffer from hepatitis. The Indigenous community has high rates of suicide and alcohol-related disorders.
Medical racism is the leading reason for these disparities. Transgenerational trauma and lack of access to healthcare contribute to the problem.
All disparities must be publicized. Organizations should educate themselves and commit to progress. Fighting racism itself will also help.
You can join the movement. Esperanca provides community-based, culturally competent health resources. Donate today.