The Missouri Foundation for Health says poverty, lack of education and health insurance continue to lead to more health problems for minorities. The Foundation has been looking at health disparities between whites, blacks and hispanics for a decade now, and says while some issues persist, others continue to get worse.
The report uses data compiled by the Missouri Department of Health and focuses on a variety of factors that affect the overall health of different demographics, and how they compare. The findings include maternal and child health, communicable diseases, emergency room visits, death rates and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and others.
Editor of the report Akeissa Coleman says communicable diseases among black Missourians compared to white Missourians is striking, but has improved. She says again, it comes down to lack of education and affordable health insurance.
Gonorrhea is more than 26 times higher in black populations than in whites, which is a huge concern, but Coleman points out that the current rate is much better than it was ten years ago, when it was 40 percent higher. Chlamydia is 11 times higher, HIV is nine times higher, syphilis is eight times higher and AIDS diagnoses are seven times higher.
Missouri Foundation for Health Vice President Ryan Barker says while programs in schools can be controversial, they can help reduce the rate of sexually transmitted infections. He says lack of education and the availability of affordable testing is the primary problem, followed by a lack of funding for awareness and testing programs. Because poor and minority populations are often Medicaid recipients and Medicaid doesn’t usually cover such testing is another obstacle, he says. The same can be said for mental health issues.
The report indicates that blacks are seven times more likely to end up in the emergency room because of schizophrenia. That’s not to say mental health conditions affect blacks at a higher rate, Barker says, but it means such conditions go untreated until emergency treatment becomes necessary. Other illnesses that send blacks to the emergency room at a much higher rate than whites include asthma, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Health disparities and how they affect Missouri’s Hispanic population are less understood because of language barriers, the report says.
“There are many challenges facing the collection of health data for Hispanics, including language and evolving data systems that have historically not collected ethnicity data,” the report says. And, “These challenges may lead to underestimates of Hispanic totals for many health indicators.”
“These reports continue to stress the need for statewide discussion about increasing health equity between white, African American, and Hispanic Missourians,” Barker says. “It is clear that major health disparities remain among these minority populations that link back to socio-economic factors.”
AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:21)
View the full report HERE.