Each year, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities designates April as Minority Health Month to help promote information and understanding of the health disparities and conditions in minority populations.

In recognition of the continuing pandemic and the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has taken, and continues to take, on minority communities, the theme for 2022’s Minority Health Month is Give Your Community a Boost! The theme centers on the importance of vaccination and getting boosters to help control the spread of and the toll from COVID-19.

How can nurses help spread awareness of minority health during the month?

  • They can act as minority health ambassadors in their communities to promote the importance of screenings and healthy behaviors.
  • They can educate patients and give them information and resources that can help them take control over and prevent some common diseases.
  • They can act as a support for their loved ones to make sure they have accurate information and know how to work with their healthcare providers for the best possible outcomes.
  • They can care for themselves to act as role models and to live the healthiest lives possible.

Racial and ethnic minority populations continue to experience the greater impact of many diseases while also struggling with resources and access to high-quality, culturally competent healthcare.

Patients want to meet with healthcare providers who look like them and who understand some of the cultural influences that can impact their healthcare choices and options. If a nurse understands that instructing a patient to avoid all high-fat or high-salt foods might not be possible in many families, then a more culturally sensitive plan can be worked on.

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Patients don’t want to feel judged and so understanding, for instance, how a patient shops for food, accesses transportation, plans a list, and cooks meals, and for how many people, can shape a more collaborative and acceptable treatment plan and likely be one that is more successful.

In keeping with this year’s theme of Give Your Community a Boost!, nurses can work with patients around the health equity of the pandemic. They can make sure patients understand how to access vaccines and boosters, determine if they need assistance with transportation, ask if they have supports in place if needed or a plan to cope with potential side effects, and have accurate information about vaccination. Nurses can stress the evidence and the science behind the shots while being sensitive to any mistrust or caution based on misinformation around the vaccines. Patients also need information about the vaccines’ protective benefits in minority communities where COVID-19 raises the risk for hospitalizations and deaths.

During this month that’s devoted to minority health, nurses are excellent educators for their patients and their communities. The more they can help support people to take an active role in their health, to advocate for themselves and their loved ones, and to understand the importance of their own conditions or risk factors, the healthier, and stronger, communities will become.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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