April is National Minority Health Month according to the CDC. As we have seen with the turmoil regarding race and discrimination across the country there is still a significant divide in our culture. The disparity exists even within the healthcare industry, which is why the CDC felt it necessary to draw attention to the health issues threatening minority cultures in the United States.

National Minority Health Month has the theme of “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity!” this year. The idea is to bring awareness to health problems for all people, including minority populations, with an emphasis on prevention.

Discrimination and racial bias

It can be absolutely disheartening to start to read through the countless articles about racial discrimination and bias in today’s healthcare system. Not only that, but other forms of racism and discrimination in our society actually cause long-term health problems among minority populations. Racism has both psychological and emotional health implications including increased rates of high blood pressure and other related health complications.

The healthcare system, which is designed to treat all people equally, is not immune to racial bias. It exists among primary care physicians to such a degree that often their minority patients stop seeking medical attention at all. The biggest problem with this is that most of these physicians don’t even realize they are treating patients of color differently than the rest of their patients.

There is also a major disconnect in our scientific sector. Research conducted by black scientists is often underfunded while this disparity is not seen across any other ethnic group. Studies of diseases that affect the African-American population are also underfunded and, more importantly, trials lack the representative culture in the first place.

While a deeper look into this research can be frustrating and disappointing, it is essential that the medical community confront the issues of racial discrimination in our everyday practices. Without the discussion of privilege and bias being held by the privileged classes there can be no resolution to this problem.

The work of National Minority Health Month

So we return to the need for National Minority Health Month. It is necessary to talk about the problem with the medical community and the greater population. There are multiple ways the medical community is bringing awareness to these issues throughout the year.

Here are just some of the programs for 2015:

  • Million Hearts: The program was created to enhance medical interventions that can prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke. Due to increased risk of these conditions among minority populations, the CDC has teamed up with Association of Black Cardiologists, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, and the South Asian Heart Center to help increase awareness.
  • Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Project (CORD): Often due to poor nutritional availability in economically depressed areas, minority children are at higher risk of childhood obesity than other groups. This initiative is looking at the causes of this epidemic as well as bringing management awareness and tools for success to communities that otherwise would not have access to medical intervention for this problem.
  • National Influenza Vaccination Disparities Partnership: People are often inundated with information about flu season and the flu shot starting in the fall. However, there are still populations that do not currently have access to this potentially lifesaving vaccine. The CDC is working through this partnership to spread awareness as well as distribution in underserved communities.

How Pain Doctor companies are trying to change these disparities

As a member of the Pain Doctor network, Holistic Pain and our sister organizations are invested in ensuring that medical care is received by anyone who is in need of treatment and solutions. None of our blogs have shied away from discussing these issues and we will continue to work hard to ensure that everyone feels comfortable seeking the help they need. We’ll continue that work during National Minority Health Month.

In August of 2014 the Pain Doctor blog looked at pain in general and how it affected different cultures in our country. While pain itself doesn’t appear to have a racial bias, individual perception certainly does. The actual experience of pain is not different but there is significant bias and a lack of empathy in the way pain is treated for black patients when compared to white patients with the same complaints.

In February of this year, the same blog looked at the ways different demographics are prescribed opioid medications. The most startling information was the knowledge that even when pain presents the same between black and white patients, opioid medications were prescribed at a significantly lower rate for blacks. However, blacks were much more likely to be recommended for drug dependence monitoring than whites even if they were both at equal risk for substance abuse.

Also in February during Black History Month, Arizona Pain provided this article about the chronic pain burden felt by African-American populations. The post explored the reasons behind the disparities of treatment for black chronic pain patients. In fact, the black population is far more likely to report instances of chronic pain and experience disability as a result. This is in part due to the lack of proper pain prescriptions and access to healthcare overall.

In March, Arizona Pain also addressed disparities in healthcare that affect the Hispanic population. Specifically, they focused on the LatinaStrong Foundation currently happening in California and Arizona to bring awareness to medical inequality and help women get the care they need for a variety of health concerns. Preventative medicine is a primary goal of the organization.

Arizona Pain doesn’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. The downtown Phoenix location is a bilingual office is part of their Latin American Division that is designed to help the Hispanic population feel more comfortable seeking treatment for chronic pain conditions that may otherwise go untreated.

We hope that the Pain Doctor family, including Holistic Pain, can be a part of the continuing dialogue regarding race and ethnicity in our healthcare system, especially during National Minority Health Month.

Have you been affected by racial bias by a healthcare professional in the past?

Image by Rosmary via Flickr


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