By Mountain Family Health Centers

April is National Minority Health Month. This year the theme is Active & Healthy, and the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health wants to raise awareness about the important role an active lifestyle plays in keeping all residents happy and healthy. The health benefits of incorporating even small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity into our schedules is significant. HHS also emphasizes that physical activity promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases and other conditions that are more common or severe among racial and ethnic minority groups.

The largest minority population in Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, and Rio Blanco counties is residents who identify as Hispanic or Latino. This is true for Colorado overall, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health, as of 2016 Hispanics/Latinos made up the largest racial-ethnic minority population (21%), followed by Blacks/African Americans (4%), Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander (AA&NHOPI, 3%), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (1%). Multiracial and persons self-identifying as “Other Race” comprise 7% of the population.

Health risks

According to the Office of Minority of Health, Hispanic health is often shaped by factors such as language and cultural barriers, lack of access to preventive care, and the lack of health insurance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited some of the leading causes of illness and death among Hispanics, which include heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (accidents), stroke, and diabetes.

Some other health conditions and risk factors that significantly affect Hispanics are: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS, obesity, suicide, and liver disease.

Other Health Concerns

Hispanics have higher rates of obesity than non-Hispanic whites. There are also disparities among Hispanic subgroups. For instance, while the rate of low birth weight infants is lower for the total Hispanic population in comparison to non-Hispanic whites, Puerto Ricans have a low birth weight rate that twice that of non-Hispanic whites. Also, Puerto Ricans also suffer disproportionately from asthma, HIVAIDS and infant mortality. Mexican-Americans suffer disproportionately from diabetes.

Recently Mountain Family Health Centers has noted a decrease in patients, or interested residents, due to fears about immigration enforcement in our service area. Mountain Family and other areas have observed that residents have hesitated receiving medical care regardless of their immigration status. This year, Colorado significantly expanded access to a certain kind of health care for Hispanic/Latino residents without documentation and needing dialysis. Colorado now allows immigrants without immigration papers—and without insurance—to receive dialysis regularly through the state Medicaid program, instead of waiting until the last minute to qualify for emergency care (Colorado Sun).

Access to insurance

According to the Office of Minority of Health, Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States. In 2015, the Census Bureau reported 19.5% of the Hispanic population was not covered by health insurance, as compared to 6.3% of the non-Hispanic white population.

Why health literacy is important

According to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (National Institutes of Health) a review of research on health literacy and health outcomes shows that when people who understand health care—and the services they’re receiving—end up having better health overall. As part of the national push to improve health disparities, leadership in a variety of organizations and agencies are working to improve health education and access for minority groups. The goal is to help residents understand what health problems they may face and how to get the right medical, dental, or behavioral (mental) health care.

As part of this effort, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (National Institutes of Health)offers information about health conditions in Spanish here and a variety of other languages, including Asian languages, here.

Mountain Family Health Centers strives to provide culturally and language-appropriate health care to all members of our community. More than 60% of our patients identify as Hispanic or other minority and, as of 2016, 28% of our patients were best served in a language other than English (predominately Spanish). To learn more about our medical, dental, and behavioral (mental) health services, call 970-945-2840 or go to www.mountainfamily.org.