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.
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.
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.
With April’s designation as Minority Health Month, the focus on COVID-19’s impact on minority communities and possible solutions to mitigate that impact are at the forefront of many healthcare organizations and workers. The past year has seen communities devastated by COVID-19, and minority communities have been hardest hit.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) is focusing on vaccination as a path to help protect people in racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities. With a #VaccineReady theme, the organization highlights the need for these vulnerable communities to have access to getting the vaccines, information to trust the vaccine process, and the resources to help people keep their full schedule of vaccine doses.
According to OMH, the focus on the Minority Health Month includes helping minority communities
All of these variables impact residents in different ways but lead to a similar outcome that places minority communities at a higher risk of COVID infection and disease transmission. If residents in these communities have lower access to proper healthcare, a higher proportion of conditions that predispose them to severe disease risk, job conditions that leave less options for dedensified space or risk reduction in altered job duties, and close living conditions, then the urgency of getting people vaccinated quickly is high priority.
Organizations like the OMH and many municipalities are taking steps to begin addressing minority health issues and to encourage people to keep themselves and their communities as healthy as possible by getting vaccinated and urging others to do the same. Nurses can watch any of the videos produced by the American Nurses Association around reducing the racial disparities of the pandemic. The videos offer a wealth of education for nurses to learn about these disparities and learn how to effectively address them with patients and the larger community.
Every April, the sponsors of National Minority Health Month call attention to the prevalent health conditions of minorities. But the month is also about spreading information to improve the health of these communities.
This year’s theme for Minority Health Month is “Active and Healthy,” and brings a focus on how an active lifestyle can reap true rewards in overall physical and mental health.
As a minority nurse, the information is personal. You can take a look at your own lifestyle and any inherited or existing risk factors you have in your own life to make changes. But you can also use that information and your own experiences to help your patients who might be struggling to have a healthier life.
Luckily, helpful information is plentiful and easy to find. You can work with your patients to find a plan that is achievable for them. Making small adjustments and changes that they are willing to implement is the first step.
Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) or the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Minority Health, minority health disparities become clear. Minority populations disproportionately suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and higher rates of obesity. Because of cultural taboos or attitudes in some minority communities and combined with a lack of nearby high-quality care, mental health struggles go untreated. All of these things can lead to a decline in health and contribute to lifelong, serious diseases.
An active lifestyle impacts both physical and mental health in all populations. After treating many patients, however, any nurse knows you can’t just tell someone to start jogging and enjoy the benefits. You have to fine-tune your approach, taking into account their existing health conditions, so they will be motivated and can do what you are suggesting. Remind them that any activity is good. A sustained and consistent active lifestyle is optimal, but even small changes can make a big difference.
Here are some ways to encourage your patients (and yourself) to get active:
Walk whenever you can
Take the stairs – if you can’t do three flights, just do one
Stretch when watching TV
Take a couple of laps around the mall when you go
Think of all the ways you move – cleaning, gardening, walking the dog – increase it
Walk in place when talking on the phone
Meet a friend for a walk instead of meeting for a coffee
Do activity that is fun—dancing, swimming, hiking, yoga
Think of “active” as just moving and move more whenever you can
Getting active feels good (maybe not at first!) and can prevent or help many health conditions. Encouraging your patients to get moving and finding a plan they can manage is a great start.
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