As you know, April is National Minority Health Month, our opportunity to increase public awareness of the health disparities that unfortunately still impact ethnic and minority groups in the American population.
Because the theme this year is "Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity," nurses are perfectly poised to take up the banner for highlighting the role of prevention in closing the health disparities gap.
After all, nurses naturally take on the responsibility for patient education. Sometimes, though, they're hesitant to take that health message beyond patient rooms and expand its reach to the wider community. But it's easy to do that and a wonderful way to increase the visibility of nurses as a critical part of the nation's healthcare team. Here's how.
Send in a letter to the editor of your state, city, or community newspaper, with a call to action for improving the health of our minority populations. You can do it under your own signature or that of a group of nurses if you belong to an association, for instance. Does that sound like a daunting task? It doesn't have to be -- if you keep these tips in mind.
*List a few talking points that you want to emphasize, with statistics that back up your points, perhaps centered on disparities that affect your racial or ethnic minority or that of your patients or co-workers. For instance:
"African American women are 34 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than White women.” (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “REACH U.S. Finding Solutions to Health Disparities: At A Glance 2010,” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health.)
*Stick to just a few talking points so that you can keep the letter short - about 150-300 words - making it more easier for a publisher to slot in the paper.
*Or, respond to something covered in that newspaper about minority health disparities or prevention within the past 72 hours. Present a perspective that's a bit different based on your own unique experience as a nurse.
*Be sure to end with your contact information, including your name, title, organization, address, and the phone number or email address where you can be most easily reached. (Editors with usually contact you to confirm this information before printing your letter.)
*In case your letter isn't published, don't give up -- the paper may have been overwhelmed by reader letters on that topic or others. Try another angle -- there are many ideas for you to consider at http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov.
Not feeling too creative? Take the sample letter below and customize it to represent your own views.
The health disparities you highlight in [cite article and date of article you are responding to], carry a steep cost for this nation and dampen our productivity and the well-being of our friends and neighbors. Here in [insert city, state etc.] we contribute to that burden by having [add key reference data for your community e.g. some of highest rates of childhood obesity among Hispanic children; the lowest percentage of mothers seeking prenatal care across all racial and ethnic groups; and the highest rates of death from diabetes among African Americans].
We must confront this persistent problem and achieve better health for everyone in the United States. The federal government has made a commitment to end health disparities and its National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity provides us with a blueprint to help reduce health inequalities and build healthier communities across the nation. Elected officials, health providers, and community leaders and residents here in [name location] must take that blueprint and work together to set goals and identify solutions that will help racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved people in our [insert locality - state/city/county etc.] live longer and healthier lives.
Jebra Turner is a freelance health writer in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her online at www.jebra.com.