Health care gap still wide, studies say |

Health care gap still wide, studies say

Lindsay Renick Mayer

WASHINGTON – With disparities in health care contributing to minority groups’ significantly higher death rates for some diseases, two national organizations are calling for nationwide and local measures that would provide equal care for all. Two bills were introduced in the Senate last year to promote better health care services for minorities and more thorough data collection. But a report Tuesday by the Applied Research Center and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, comprised of four activist groups in the Pacific Northwest, called for more political action and grassroots activism to narrow the gap in health care between whites and other racial groups.”The solution to the racial divide in health care is within grasp,” said Gary Delgado, executive director of the Applied Research Center, which studies race and social change. “These disparities are correctible. They point to the need to re-order priorities.”Hispanics in Colorado have the highest death rates for diabetes, chronic liver disease and cervical cancer of any minority group in the state, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Office of Health Disparities. Both the Hispanic and black populations have a rate of prenatal death higher than the state average.Delgado attributed the disparities to three causes within the health care system – discrimination, hospitals’ budget problems and language barriers.The report recommended improved access to health insurance for members of minority groups by expanding government programs like Medicaid and moving toward universal health coverage. It also recommended improving data collection to better track the disparities. Lorez Meinhold, director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said many diseases are more prevalent in certain communities because members of the communities may not have access to insurance. She said 80 percent of the 750,000 uninsured people in Colorado are working in areas like service jobs, where health benefits are largely unavailable.”We need to start addressing how to make health care more affordable,” Meinhold said. “How do we get to a public/private partnership that gets more people covered?”According to Meinhold, one in three blacks and one in two Hispanics in Colorado are uninsured, while only one in four Caucasians in the state are uninsured. The study encouraged the development of local health care institutions that welcome people of all races and ethnicities, saying many hospital staffs are not diverse and not aware of cultural differences. A related recommendation urged hospitals and doctors’ offices to provide interpreting services for all clients.In an attempt to provide more equal care, students studying health at the School of Human Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado learn about these disparities and are trained in cultural competency, said Kathy Zavela, a professor in the School of Human Sciences.”Our students are going to work within culturally diverse communities,” Zavela said, “so it’s important they’re familiar with different practices and beliefs so [patients] feel more included in their own health and well-being.”Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism