Sunday, December 13, 2009

Minorities Face Health Challenges

When it comes to health issues, Utah’s racial and ethnic minorities are not like the general population in the state but they are also not like each other. The Utah Department of Health, Center for Multicultural Health has published a series of Health Disparities Summaries that describe many differences among racial and ethnic minorities when compared to the statewide population.

Utah’s goal is to help community members and health workers raise awareness of health issues, plan health programs specific to racial and ethnic minorities, obtain grant funding to help organizations serve racial and ethnic minorities, and eliminate racial health disparities. In general, despite the health problems that plague many Utah minorities, some groups enjoy better health than the statewide population in some measures.

The study found that the African American/Black population including refugees and immigrants, share many health issues with the larger Utah population, but also have health problems unique to their communities. This population has a higher percentage of people without a place to go for health care and they also lack adequate prenatal care as compared to rest of the population in Utah.

Infant death is also more common among births to African-American/Black women as compared to the rest of the population. Sixty one percent of the deaths were due to the illnesses of the mother that complicated the labor and delivery and deaths were also due from infections. Other deaths resulted from birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome, injuries, and illnesses during the first year of life. Preterm births and low birth weight rates were also found to be high for this population.

However, death due to coronary heart disease and cancer are lower in the Utah African-American/Black population than among the U.S. population as a whole. This group meets both the state and national targets for low rates of coronary heart disease and cancer.

Diabetes affects Utah’s Hispanic/Latino population at higher rates than the rest of the Utah population. Reports show that gestational diabetes is more prevalent in the Hispanic/Latino population than among the general population.

Births to teens are frequent among Hispanics/Latinas in not only Utah but also nationally. Women with unintended pregnancies often lack adequate prenatal care and very often expose their fetuses to risks from smoking and alcohol.

However, this group has lower death rates from heart disease and cancer as compared to others in Utah. This group also meets state targets for low rates of stroke death, unintentional injury death, and arthritis problems.

The American Indian population in Utah does not always receive adequate healthcare. This has resulted in fewer health screenings, delayed health interventions, and difficulty in managing chronic conditions like diabetes. Utah American Indians die from complications of diabetes at nearly double the rate for the rest of the population in the state. Also more than 11 percent of Utah’s American Indian population has diabetes, compared to 6 percent of the Utah population.

Commercial tobacco use is a leading cause of death in Utah and is high among Utah American Indians as compared to the general population in the state. Exposure to cigarette smoke can trigger asthma symptoms and full blown attacks in adults and children. The adult Utah American Indian asthma rate of 11.5 percent exceeds the state rate of 7.9 percent.

The overall health status is poorer among American Indians than the rest of the Utah population including both mental and physical health. American Indians report that they do less physical activity than other groups in the state, plus education, income, and lifestyle also play a large role in American Indian health.

Go to for more details on the summaries.