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Stats & Facts: Preventable Health Disparities.

by Sharon Gayle September 19, 2011

Health Disparities and Racial / Ethnic Minority Groups

Periodically I will choose to cover an issue for which my own words cannot fully amplify the severity of the situation. In these instances, where permitted, I will simply pull the entire article for your review and educational benefit. The following is one such issue / concern. Following is the article is provided courtesy of the
CDC, Centers for Disease Control.

Photograph, courtesy of CDC.

Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations. Disparities often begin early in life, starting during childhood or adolescence.
Young people from racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States suffer disproportionately from a number of preventable diseases and health problems. For example:
  • Compared with white youth, black and Hispanic youth have higher prevalence’s of asthma, overweight, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Rates of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy are higher among black and Hispanic youth than among whites of the same age.
  • In 2007, black youth accounted for approximately 68% of new HIV/AIDS cases among 13–19 year olds, even though they represented only 15% of the population in that age group.
  • Hispanic youth experience proportionately more anxiety-related behaviors and depression than do non-Hispanic white youth.
  • Among youth aged 10–19 years, American Indians have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes of any racial/ethnic group.
  • Suicide rates among American Indians/Alaska Natives aged 15–34 years are more than two times higher than the national average for that age group.

Contributors to Health Disparities

The causes of these differences in health — known as "health disparities" — are many. Poverty, unequal access to health care, poor environmental conditions, educational inequalities, individual behaviors, and language barriers are all important contributors.
Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.
These disparities are inequitable and directly related to the historical and current unequal distribution of social, political, economic, and environmental resources.
In addition to race and ethnicity, health disparities also exist on the basis of sex, age, income level, geography, sexual orientation, disability, and special health care needs.
To address health disparities, early intervention is key. Most of the leading causes of illness and premature death among minority youth and adults stem from unhealthy behaviors that become established during childhood and adolescence—such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, risky sexual behaviors, and use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

Findings from a National Survey of Youth

To learn more about the health-related behaviors of our nation's young people — their eating and exercise habits, their drinking and drug use, their sexual activities, and more — CDC conducts the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This survey is given every two years to 9th–12th grade students in public and private schools across the United States.
Demographic data are also collected through this survey to help researchers analyze trends by age, sex, and race/ethnicity.
The findings from this national youth survey have contributed greatly to our understanding of racial/ethnic disparities in health. CDC has prepared two reports that summarize the survey data and identify important differences in health-related behaviors among black, Hispanic, and white youth in the United States
The reports give demographic profiles for blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. and outline important health and behavioral differences among adolescents in the following areas:
  1. Injury, violence, and suicide attempts;
  2. Sexual risk behaviors, such as condom use, number of partners, and age of first sexual intercourse;
  3. Alcohol and other drug use;
  4. Obesity and unhealthy dietary behaviors;
  5. Physical activity; and
  6. Tobacco use.
CDC's Division of Adolescent Health also suggest actions that public health and education professionals can take to address disparities among students, including:
  • Focusing programmatic efforts to address the needs of youth in high risk groups.
  • Raising awareness about the causes of disparities and about evidence-based strategies for addressing them.
  • Building partnerships to address the root causes of health and educational disparities.
  • Documenting the impact of health disparities, as well as the impact of efforts to reduce them.
Entire Source and Data: Center for Disease Control and Prevention - cdcinfo@cdc.gov
All photographs provided courtesy of CDC.