Health Disparities Spotlighted in April

As health professionals, nurses are well aware of health disparities in communities of color. Some patients will live shorter life spans simply because of their race, ethnicity, education or income.

Raising awareness about health inequities is a constant effort, but this critical issue is highlighted in April, which is National Minority Health Month. This year's theme: Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity” emphasizes the critical role of prevention in reducing health disparities.

The combined cost of health inequities and premature deaths were estimated to be $1.24 trillion between 2003 and 2006, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

From AIDS/HIV to cancer to obesity to tuberculosis, racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be affected in disproportionate numbers. Health disparities among African Americans and Latinos in 2009 cost private insurers an additional $5.1 billion.

Consider these statistics:

▪Of 197,090 diagnoses of HIV-infection from 2008-2011, Blacks were 47% of the total.

▪African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more than three times as likely to receive the same diagnosis.

▪Latinos are twice as likely to die from liver cancer.

▪African American women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

▪About five out of 10 Latinos and four out of 10 blacks aged 50 or older never had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy compared to three out of 10 older whites.

▪Black women have more than double the rate of extreme obesity [16.4%] as white and Latino women [7.4% and 7.6%].

Preventive services, such as diabetes screening and pap smears, are game-changing. So is a honest discussion about healthy eating, fresh-food deserts and lack of exercise. People can do better when they know better.  

Nurses are the most trusted professionals. Educate patients as well as loved ones to help reduce preventable disease, disability and death.

Robin Farmer is a freelance journalist with a focus on health, education and business. Visit her at


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