Health disparities continue to affect racial and ethnic minority populations across the United States, which is a major problem that deserves urgent attention. During National Minority Health Month, it’s crucial to raise awareness about this issue and work toward actionable solutions to reduce disparities and improve health equity.
This year’s theme, “Give Your Community a Boost,” highlights the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters, as one of the best tools we have to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color.
Health Disparities Among Minority Populations Must Be Addressed
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, “experiences with racism and discrimination can contribute to mistrust of the health care system among racial and ethnic minority groups, leading to mistrust of factual information on vaccines and boosters.”
Unfortunately, health disparities have always existed within minority groups in the U.S. as a result of systemic inequalities in our country’s economic and healthcare systems. It’s important for healthcare professionals to recognize that different communities have varying environmental conditions and vulnerabilities, which is why culturally relevant approaches are needed to ensure minority populations receive the information, support and resources they need.
At HMS, our surveyors support federal and state agencies to protect vulnerable populations in healthcare facilities across the country. We understand how important it is to facilitate education around safety as we perform our work. As professionals working on the frontlines during the ongoing pandemic, we also acknowledge our role in helping stop the disproportionate rates of premature death and preventable illness among minority populations through education about prevention and early detection.
How to Protect Yourself and Others Against COVID-19
- Get vaccinated and boosted.
As we’ve seen firsthand in healthcare facilities, COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious symptoms, hospitalizations, and death from the virus. Staying up to date on vaccines and boosters is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19.
- Wear a mask.
The virus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice. Wearing a face mask significantly decreases the virus’ spread, because it blocks the mouth and nose where respiratory droplets enter and exit the body. The CDC recommends knowing your COVID-19 Community Level to determine when to wear a mask or respirator to protect yourself from contracting the virus. COVID-19 Community Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds in use, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. Find out what your COVID-19 Community Level is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html
- Wash hands thoroughly and regularly.
Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred through anything we touch. Because the virus enters the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth, the risk of contracting COVID-19 increases each time you touch your face. According to the CDC, proper handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is critical to limit the spread of the virus.