April National Minority Health Month
April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM). Established by Congress in 2002 and building off an annual event originally created in 1915 by Booker T. Washington, NMHM is an opportunity to raise awareness of the health disparities facing minorities and other vulnerable populations. The theme of this year’s NMHM is #VaccineReady. The Office of Minority Health is hosting events on the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority populations and the importance of getting vaccinated. However, NMHM also remains a time to recognize the importance of addressing all the health disparities that minority populations can face, ranging from increased risk of heart disease and diabetes to poor nutrition.1
Many of the health disparities that minority populations can face stem from the social determinants of health (SDOH).2 The SDOH are the conditions in the environments where we live and include our neighborhoods’ financial stability, access to high-quality education, environmental pollution levels, and many more. Due to various issues, including structural racism, the SDOH are often weaker for minority populations, leading to disparities in health outcomes. These disparities are further magnified because minority populations often lack access to high-quality health care services, which is another SDOH. In addition to the SDOH, there are numerous individual and interpersonal risk and protective factors for negative health outcomes that can disproportionately impact minority populations.
Substance use prevention is along the behavioral health continuum, and behavioral health is part of whole health. Prevention professionals must recognize when SDOH or other factors lead to disparities in substance use-related outcomes among the populations they serve. To address these disparities, prevention professionals should be prepared to collaborate with other stakeholders as part of an overall public health approach to improve health and wellness. The first step to doing this is to be aware of the disparities. NMHM is an opportunity to learn more and spread awareness. More information on NMHM is available through the Office of Minority Health. Prevention training and technical assistance on these and other topics is available through the Central East Prevention Technology Transfer Center.
1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Community-Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States (2017). The State of Health Disparities in the United States. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425844/
2. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (n/d). Social Determinants of Health. Healthy People 2030. Available at https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/social-determinants-health