April is National Minority Health Awareness Month. And, to ensure that there is greater attention paid to the severe health disparities faced by minorities in the nation, I have introduced a resolution in support of the goals and ideals of the awareness campaign.
Though the general health of our nation has recently improved and people are living longer, many racial and ethnic minorities in our country do not enjoy these advances and, unfortunately, still experience very unequal levels of access, treatment and overall health. African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians and Alaska natives, and native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders experience a very disproportionate level of illness or death as compared to the U.S. population as a whole.
While the 10 leading causes of death for African Americans and whites are similar, they occur at different rates within each population. For instance, nationally, African Americans experience significantly higher rates of infant death, heart disease, all cancers, homicide and HIV/AIDS than whites. Hispanics in the U.S. are almost twice as likely to die from diabetes as are whites and account for 20 percent of the new cases of tuberculosis. Though Asians and Pacific Islanders appear to be one of the healthiest populations in the U.S., there is great diversity in this population: Vietnamese women experience cervical cancer at nearly five times the rate of white women, for example. Since Philadelphia is culturally and ethnically diverse, these statistics are reflective of the health disparities in our city.
While much of the disease and premature death that affects all groups can be linked to lifestyle choices, the very real issues of unequal levels of access to quality medical care and treatment represent a serious reality for minority populations. Besides being the right thing to do, paying national attention to these disparities makes fiscal sense, as we move forward in an effort to reform the delivery and financing of our health-care system.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D) represents Pennsylvania’s 1st District in Congress.