Health disparities among communities in the United States exist. Social vulnerabilities put minorities at disproportionate risk of all sorts of chronic diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and obesity.
How can we understand what is going on in our communities and efforts to mitigate the effects of poor air/water quality, an absence of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, and even the lower education levels that can exacerbate health disparities? Using our information literacy skills, let’s identify some quality resources so we can understand the current situation and how it can be improved.
Resources from the federal government
The U.S. government has a wealth of data and information that can be mined to uncover ways in which people’s health can be improved. If you’re curious about the government’s objectives for health data collection in the current decade, you’ll find that at Health.gov/healthypeople.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Minority Health subsite features an e-newsletter, Health Equity Matters, a blog (Conversations in Equity), and various health disparities/strategies reports. State and local programs using “culturally tailored interventions to address preventable risk behaviors” are funded by Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) funds.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) publishes reports and statistical briefs on racial/ethnic minorities, as well as children/adolescents, the elderly, low-income, rural/inner-city residents, and women. A good starting point for your research might be the Minority Health fact sheets.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) website contains health profiles of American Indian and Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Black/African Americans, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. The OMH Resource Center’s collection of books, documents, reports, journal articles, and media is searchable via the online catalog. Consumer health materials are available in more than 40 languages. If you want to find national or regional organizations providing health information to minority communities, use the Advanced Search option (format=organization).
The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities examines factors contributing to health disparities among underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities. Also look at the resources targeted for each of the populations mentioned above in MedlinePlus.
State and local governments
Some federal agency studies present minority health data at the state or local level. There are organizations of state and local authorities concerned with health disparities as well. For example:
- The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) tracks health disparity regulation.
- The National Association of County Health Officials (NACCHO) has a program that supports efforts to confront the causes of unequal distribution of disease and health resources, Health Equity and Social Justice. Its six-module Roots of Health Inequity course is open to individuals and groups.
Not-for-profit organizations conducting research
Several health organizations fund research through partnerships with not-for-profits or universities. “Healthy Communities” is the focus of research funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWF). For example, RWF funds the Advancing Health Equity initiative at the University of Chicago.
Minority Health Journals
Some publications dedicated to minority health issues are available through NOVA Libraries’ online databases, such as EBSCO Academic Search, while others can be accessed via the web. In addition, several titles that remain behind publisher firewalls have open access versions allowing the public to read articles covering minority health on their site, or via PubMed. Here’s a list of a few open access publications:
American Journal of Public Health
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved
SSM (Social Science & Medicine) Population Health
Journal of health, population and nutrition