Thursday April 2, 2009
April is National Minority Health Awareness Month. The goal of National Minority Health Awareness Month is to bring about awareness of disparities between the health of minorities and the general population and to highlight initiatives that are bringing about solutions to those disparities.
Nationally, minority groups have higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight babies, and HIV/AIDS. African Americans, in particular, suffer disproportionately from such chronic conditions as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Data collected since 1985 also point to similar disparities between other minorities such as the Hispanic/Latino population, which is the fastest growing immigrant group in Louisville. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, reports that Latinos are twice as likely to die from diabetes.
The Department of Public Health and Wellness’s most recent summary of the Health of Louisville citizens, Health Status Assessment Report 2008, reports the following:
· Between 2004 and 2005, the infant mortality rate among African Americans increased from 10 to 14.3 per 1,000 live births. This rate was about three times the rate among Whites (4.7) in 2005 and remains higher than national and state rates.
· In 2005, the percent of low birth weight births was highest in African American mothers (14%), almost twice the percent of White women (8%).
· The incidence of newly diagnosed AIDS cases reported to the state has been fairly consistent and was 12.3 per 100,000 populations in 2006. The rate was highest for African Americans males.
· Nationally, Hispanic / Latinos are most likely to lack health insurance (32.7% versus 11.3% Whites and 19.6% African Americans) and have limited access to health services.
· Hispanics/Latinos have disproportionately high levels of asthma, HIV/AIDS, obesity, suicide, teenage pregnancy, and tuberculosis.
The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness opened the Center for Health Equity in 2006 to close the gap in health status among minority populations. The Center works to address the root causes of health disparities, solutions to which often lie in better social policies.
The Healthy Start initiative of the Department of Public Health and Wellness has also been working since 1998 to close the gap in infant mortality in minority populations. Healthy Start works to reduce infant mortality in west Louisville neighborhoods where infant mortality rates are triple the rate of the community as a whole. Healthy Start also works to reduce the number of low birth weight babies (less than 5.5 pounds) and very low birth weight babies (less than 3.3 pounds) among participants and to ensure that women receive early and continuing prenatal care.
Recently Healthy Start announced that is will be able to serve an additional 200 families in west Louisville neighborhoods with a $308,000 grant from the Norton HealthCare Community Trust. The Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness will announce another expansion of the Louisville Healthy Start program next week.
The complete Health Status Assessment Report 2008 is available on-line at http://www.louisvilleky.gov/health. For more information about Healthy Start, the Center for Health Equity or other Department of Public Health and Wellness programs, visit www.louisvilleky.gov/health or phone 574-6520.