As we approach the end of April, let’s not forget National Minority Health Month, and its theme - “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity.” As a nurse, you can continue in the coming months to champion the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) goal: “a nation free of disparities in health and health care.”
One of the bright sides in the effort to close the disparities gap is the institution of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now millions of Americans who belong to minority groups have access to health coverage they can afford. The impact of the ACA in communities nationwide is just starting to be felt as preventive services have been expanded on a no-cost share basis (meaning no co-pay, even if you haven't met your insurance deductible).
Major examples: colon cancer screening, Pap smears and mammograms, well-child visits, and flu shots.
What’s astounding is how comprehensive the preventive care coverage is now. For example, all Marketplace health plans must now cover a long list of women’s services, on a no-cost share basis (when delivered by an in-network provider), including these items.
*Breast Cancer Genetic Test Counseling (BRCA) for women at higher risk
*Chlamydia Infection Screening for women at higher risk
*Contraception, FDA-approved methods, sterilization, and patient education (with certain exceptions)
*Folic Acid (for women who may become pregnant)
*HIV screening (for sexually active women)
*Osteoporosis Screening (over 60 or higher risk)
*Tobacco Use Screening and Interventions
Be aware of what new or old preventive services may be necessary for protecting your health. (Are you getting a flu shot every year well before the start of flu season?) That’s probably the best place to start. But then think about what diseases are close to your heart and educate yourself about how you can educate your patients on how to prevent them.
Maybe your focus is on birth defects, which unfortunately strike 1 in 33 babies born each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some abnormalities at birth are minor but others are serious, which is why birth defects are the leading cause of death before age one.
A simple way to fight one type of birth defect is with the folic acid (now under ACA prevention coverage). National Folic Acid Awareness Week at the beginning of January highlights the need for this B vitamin. It helps prevent defects in a baby’s brain and spine when taken by mothers before and during pregnancy. Many resources are available to you as a healthcare professional, if you'd like to join this highly effective campaign.
What are you going to do to commemorate this National Minority Health Month? We’d love to hear about your interests and experiences with reducing health disparities.
Jebra Turner is a health writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at www.jebra.com.