How Three Cities Are Addressing Minority Health Disparities

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Ever year in April, National Minority Health Month highlights the health disparities that persist among racial and ethnic minority populations — and the ways in which legislation, policy and programs can help advance health equity.

While health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most Americans, minorities still experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death and disability in comparison to non-minorities.

By addressing health disparities within their communities, city officials are taking steps to eliminate the disproportionate burden of premature death and preventable illness in minority populations through prevention, early detection and control of disease complications.

Here are two examples of how city leaders and Constituency Group members are addressing health disparities in their communities:

Raising Awareness

Alderwoman Jameesha Harris of New Bern, North Carolina and a member of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) has organized a Health and Wellness Fair on Mental Illness and the Opioid Addiction to educate community members about the consequences of opioid misuse and how to combat addictions. To heighten awareness around minority health issues, Alderwoman Harris has also requested a proclamation for the month of April to be deemed Minority Health Month.

In the city of Akron, Ohio At-Large Representative Linda Omobien and Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) member has also taken initiative by organizing a Healthy Choir Showcase for Summit County. Organized through the Office of Minority Health, the Showcase is free and open to the public, with performances from choirs and choral groups from surrounding communities. As residents gather for a day of music and family friendly games, they’ll also meet with vendors from various healthcare organizations. Per the Office of Minority Health, the main goal of the event is to address the many preventable chronic diseases that are prevalent within minority populations.

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Working with Community Stakeholders

In Auburn, Washington, Councilmember Yolanda Trout-Manuel, a member of the Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO), is working with the Blue Ribbon Committee to make the City of Auburn the healthiest city in Washington by 2020.

A 2015 King County Health Needs Assessment showed that Auburn had some of the highest rates of behavioral/mental distress, obesity, smoking, diabetes, low income and unemployment in the county. In response, Mayor Nancy Backus created the Blue Ribbon Committee.

Composed of seven major stakeholders like the Auburn School District, the Muckleshoot Indian tribe and the Green River College, the Blue Ribbon Committee identified 9 major health issues in Auburn through community health needs assessments. The Committee has formed multiple clinical partnerships, stakeholder agreements and sub-committees to directly address health inequity throughout the city.

As Constituency Group members continue to advance health equity and improve the health of communities nationwide, we encourage members to share their stories of advancing the health status of racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States by emailing us at constituencygroups@nlc.org. Learn more about NLC’s Constituency Groups at nlc.org/cg.

Jannelle1_ready.jpgAbout the Author: Jannelle Watson is NLC’s Senior Associate for Constituency Group Program