April is an Opportunity to Become More Educated and Aware of Minority Health Month

Jake Newby

| 5 min read

In the United States, people of color experience higher rates of illness and death across health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease.
National Minority Health Month (NMHM) each April is a time to learn about the statistics and build awareness about the disproportionate burden of preventable death and illness among minority groups. With that in mind, here are three ways to observe National Minority Health Month.

Educate and spread awareness.

Awareness starts with being well-informed and starting conversations. Not sure where to start? Take advantage of the resources provided by these sites:
  • Read health equity material and learn about participation opportunities presented by organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH) provides population profiles that offer data on key health topics impacting racial and ethnic minorities.
  • The OMH website also provides social media messages, shareable graphics, and information on national minority health events in 2024, as well as information on COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and accurate vaccine information.
  • The FDA Office of Minority Health and Health Equity’s (OMHHE) easy-to-use and culturally appropriate resources on minority health, health disparities, and related topics are available to download, print, and share. Some are available in Spanish and additional languages.

Hear from those making a difference.

Jackson, Michigan resident Renee Brown’s brother Richie died in 2021 after spending years battling obstructive sleep apnea, a disease that is underdiagnosed in Black Americans. As a national beauty pageant contestant, Renee has been able to use her platform to spread sleep apnea awareness.
“When I get on stage and I talk about it, I initially start out by asking a question: ‘Everybody knows somebody who snores really loud, right?’ she said. “And then I talk about how important it is to get tested or get a loved one tested. Taking a sleep test is not hard, it does not hurt. I just try to encourage people to do what’s best for their health. Go get tested.”
Jazmine Beltran’s ability to relate to Pontiac’s sizable Latino community has made her an invaluable asset to Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSEM), where she serves as the non-profit organization’s prevention programs supervisor, where one of her primary responsibilities involves facilitating mental health treatment for Hispanic/Latino X families.
Beltran shared a personal story in which she helped a family connect to resources that addressed social determinants of health (SDOH). Addressing SDOH can lead to better health outcomes.
“This family, there was a mother and three children, one was a young baby, and her husband was deported,” Beltran explained. “She was alone with the kids and wasn’t receiving services from us at the time. Because of the deportation of the father, the kids were struggling, not eating enough, all sorts of things. She’s a very strong woman. And, as soon as I mentioned the services we can offer, parenting classes, mentoring programs, tutoring for the little ones – it was kind of a relief.”
In the coming years, the family matched with a mentor, went on field trips and received tutoring. In many respects, her young family grew up under the La Casa Amiga roof.
“She’s said, ‘You are my guardian angel. You’re offering all these services to my kids, and they are improving.’”

Start conversations with family and friends.

Due to various factors that come into play, people of color are less likely to receive routine screenings for breast, cervical and colon cancers, and are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages. It is a great idea during MNHM for families to come together this month to discuss their health with loved ones.
Check in with family members to discuss family health history, which identifies people with a higher-than-usual chance of having common disorders and diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and certain cancers.
Discuss mental health to help overcome stigma and talk about issues some family members may have with visiting a health care professional. Talking through topics like these could help a loved one take necessary steps toward improving their health.
If you or a loved one has a doctor’s appointment or procedure coming up, remember how important it is to advocate for the best health care possible. You and your loved ones can plan to do this in a multitude of ways, including:
  • Preparing for every doctor’s visit by writing down any symptoms or new concerns, making note of any health changes in family members and new medications, and bringing that list to your next appointment.
  • Asking questions. If what the doctor is saying doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification. It’s critical that individuals understand any test results, diagnoses or treatment and medication recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to explain the reasoning behind their recommendations, the risks and benefits, and any alternatives.
  • Asking for a referral. If there is an issue a primary care doctor cannot address, they may recommend a referral to a specialist for a particular issue. Specialists are doctors that have completed additional training in a specific area of care, like allergy or heart care or cancer.
In addition to discussing and encouraging advocacy, consider bringing an advocate — whether it be a friend, family member or even trusted colleague — to an upcoming doctor’s visit. Having someone you trust around to process information and ask additional questions can be a huge help. This level of support can be critical in achieving optimal well-being.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan collaborates with organizations across the state to provide social services that address racial and other health disparities and to help families and communities thrive. Learn more here.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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