There’s simply no doubt about it—minority health disparities resulting from structural racism and discrimination exist in the American healthcare system, and minority members feel the effects every day.
Research shows that discrimination against minorities persists in systems because people naturally empathize more with individuals of their own race. One report concludes that the disparities will continue until our leaders can “build the needed empathy and political will to eradicate” this discrimination.
And the disparities are wide.
Consider this. Regardless of socioeconomic status or education level, in comparison to a white woman, a minority woman is:
- 22% more likely to die from heart disease.
- 71% more likely to die from cervical cancer.
- 243% more likely to die from pregnancy/childbirth-related complications.
But it is not a hopeless situation. There are many steps individuals can take to overcome these health disparities for themselves.
Strategies to Help Minority Groups
The same study suggests five policy strategies to overcome health disparities in minority populations. They are to:
- Ensure equal access to medical care for all people.
- Prioritize primary care over specialty care.
- Increase access to high-quality healthcare for all.
- Advocate for a more diverse healthcare workforce.
- Address the social needs of patients in addition to their health needs.
The good news is that there is a movement to overcome minority health disparities using these strategies, and there are ways for individuals to follow these guidelines and circumvent the normal channels that create interference for minorities.
Anyone can learn from these proactive measures that help minorities overcome healthcare disadvantages. Let’s look at how you can take decisions about your health into your own hands and apply them to the two most common forms of cancer in this country.
Practical Ways to Overcome Health Disparities
- The Disparity: While breast cancer deaths are falling across the board, it is still the most common cancer in women, and research shows minorities suffer disproportionally. Notably, Black women had a 41% higher mortality rate than white women.
- Overcoming the Disparity: Increases in education and availability of breast cancer screening have improved high-risk populations. Anyone can educate themselves and their loved ones about the early detection of breast cancer and do their part to benefit the general health of their community.
- The Disparity: Colorectal cancer is the second-most common form of cancer in the United States, and it takes an outsized toll on the African American community. Black Americans suffer from this form of cancer 20% more frequently than any other ethnic or minority group, and their mortality rate is 40% higher. The death of movie star Chadwick Boseman, who was only 43 when he succumbed to colorectal cancer in 2020, raised awareness for this devastating cancer.
Minorities lack access to the preventative care needed to stop colorectal cancer in its early stages. Also, research shows that they were particularly concerned with the process of traditional colonoscopies. Concerned that they were too invasive or inconvenient, they often delayed or avoided this crucial step in preventing colon cancer.
- Overcoming the Disparity: Many more patients of color can be screened for colorectal cancer through a home colon cancer screen known as a FIT (fecal immunochemical test). Individuals can request a FIT independently, or healthcare providers can strategically target patients to screen for cancer. This non-invasive, private method has shown that it can close the gap in health disparities and is something anyone can do for themselves.
At Advanced Behavioral Health, we understand that a person’s well-being is a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Our compassionate therapists understand the nature of biases in the healthcare system and work with our patients to provide quality care for all.
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health needs, please reach out to our team of qualified mental health specialists.
You can call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. One of our team members will be standing by to help you find the confidential consultation you need.