Health Disparities in Racial or Ethnic Minority Youth

The term health disparities refer to the differences in the quality of health and healthcare between social groups. The social groups could be race, ethnicity, age, disability, gender, geography, sexual orientation or income related.

It seems natural for developing and under-developing countries to experience health disparities. What is unnatural and intriguing is the fact that even highly developed countries like U.S.A. have significant health disparities.

Minority communities in the U.S. like Blacks, Hispanics, Asians etc have been found to suffer from preventable diseases more than their white counterparts. This is due to various reasons like poverty, lack of education regarding health issues, unequal access to health care, barriers to communication with health care workforce, etc.

Have a look at some statistics regarding health disparities in the U.S

  • The rate of HIV incidence in Blacks is 7 times greater, and in Hispanics 3 times greater than in whites.
  • Cancer incidence rates are highest among Black men.
  • The prevalence of diabetes is about 1.7 times more among Blacks, 1.9 times more among Hispanics, and 2.8 times more among American Indian and Alaska Natives than among White Americans of similar age.
  • About 50% of Black women are obese, which is the highest among all races.
  • About 38% of Hispanics, 20% Asian/ Pacific Islanders & American Indians are without health insurance, compared to 13% in Whites and 15% in Blacks.

Focus on youth
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a premier organization in the U.S in the field of public health, says that these disparities are entirely preventable. It also says that these disparities often start out in childhood or adolescence. For example:

  • The rates of teen pregnancies, HIV incidence and other sexually transmitted diseases are higher in Hispanic and Black than in White youth.
  • Hispanic youth experience more depression and other anxiety related behaviors than White youth.
  • Black and Hispanic youth have higher rates of asthma, obesity and type-2 diabetes than White youth.
  • More American Indian/Alaska Native youth aged 15-34 commit suicide than any other group in that age.

The CDC works to eliminate health disparities. It recognizes the need for early intervention, for educating youth about access to health care system and reducing risky health behavior.

National youth survey
The CDC conducts a national survey among youth to understand the various factors affecting health disparities. This survey is undertaken every 2 years and provides valuable data to researchers and workers for use in their efforts to reduce health disparities.

Age, sex and race/ethnicity data is also collected so that trends can be analyzed on that basis.

The survey seeks information on important health and behavioral differences among youth in the following areas.

  1. Injury, violence and suicide attempts
  2. Risky sexual behavior
  3. Alcohol and drug use
  4. Obesity and unhealthy dietary habits
  5. Physical activity
  6. Tobacco use

The health of humanity as a whole has shown a rapid improvement over the past few centuries due to advances in science & technology. But differences in how the benefits are being distributed among various communities have been a headache. Real progress may not be possible if these differences are not eliminated.

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