This April, we hope you’ll join us to observe National Minority Health Month. The month-long initiative is geared toward building general awareness of common health conditions and risks that affect minority and ethnic populations. Besides engaging health care providers to offer more culturally sensitive and equitable care, the initiative also encourages individuals to take control of their health. When we learn about the conditions that may be more likely to affect us, we can make sure to schedule regular screenings and doctor visits.
Conditions That Are Genetic
In large part, your health is determined by the choices you make. Over time, decisions like whether to snack on a piece of fruit or a slice of cake, or go to sleep at the same time every night or stay up late to watch TV can have a significant impact. But some health conditions seem to run in families – and there are even diseases that are common depending on your ethnic background.
African Americans, for example, are at greater risk for sickle-cell disease. According to the American Kidney Foundation, the Asian, Pacific Islander, and African American communities are at higher risk for gout.
One group providing the most remarkable example of the relationship between genetics and diseases are eastern European Jews. They are susceptible to a number of rare disorders like Bloom syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease, but they are also at increased risk for many cancers. All thanks to genetics.
Knowing your family history and having regular checkups and health screenings are key factors in the early detection of these conditions. Working with a trusted provider can help reduce your risks.
Cultural and Lifestyle-Related Conditions
Some chronic health conditions and illnesses seem to disproportionately affect certain populations who don’t have a clear-cut genetic risk. For example, both Latinos and African Americans are more likely to have obesity and complications related to diabetes. Even though unhealthy lifestyle choices may be partially to blame, some of those choices are affected by long-term systemic inequities — unequal access to care, limited access to fresh, healthy produce, or lack of doctors who understand the unique health and cultural concerns of their patients.
Additionally, African Americans often live with diseases that don’t affect whites until they’re much older, such as high blood pressure and strokes. Latinos are also more likely to struggle with issues that include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
AltaMed is working to address many of the health disparities that make these conditions all too common in our communities. However, you can still take action to protect yourself: exercise, eat a healthy diet that includes a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, and see your doctor and dentist for regular screenings.
Beyond Physical Health
Mental health goes hand-in-hand with physical health when talking about overall wellness. Minority populations often won’t seek out mental health services because of a perceived stigma.
According to the 2017 California Well-Being Survey, most Asian-Americans reported a high level of self-stigma related to mental health, and Hispanics reported higher self-stigma than whites. Hispanics said they were also more likely to conceal mental illness from coworkers and classmates than whites. And socioeconomic issues keep Black Americans and Latinos from completing substance abuse programs more often than whites. But AltaMed provides services to help all populations deal with behavioral health and substance abuse issues.
Culturally Sensitive Care and Much More
When it comes to helping minority and ethnically diverse communities grow healthy, good care is only part of the equation. That’s why we are involved in local programs that support the creation of good-paying jobs, markets where people can buy fresh and healthy foods, and social services that help each individual achieve their potential.
To make an appointment with an AltaMed doctor and learn how to combat your potential health risks, call us at (888) 499-9303.