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Minority Health

Overview :

The United States, as well as many other countries, experiences cultural diversity. This poses specific health issues that are specific to ethnic groups. Additionally, the propensity for certain diseases or illnesses is of concern in certain minority groups. These specific health issues include infant mortality rates, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV infection, and immunizations.

Infant mortality rates

Infant mortality rates (IMRs) in the United States and in all countries worldwide are an accurate indicator of health status. They provide information concerning programs about pregnancy education and counseling, technological advances, and procedures and aftercare. IMRs vary among racial groups. African Americans had an IMRs of 14.2 per 1,000 live births in 1996, approximately 2.5 times higher than Caucasians. The IMRs among American Native Indian groups varies greatly, with some communities possessing IMRs about two times more than national rates. Additionally Hispanic IMRs (7.6 per 1,000 live births) are also diverse for separate groups, since the IMRs for example among Puerto Ricans is higher (8.9 per 1,000 live births).


Cancer is a serious national, worldwide, and minority health concern. It is the second cause of death in the United States, claiming over half a million lives each year. Approximately 50% of persons who develop cancer will die. There is great disparity among the cancer rates in minority groups. Across genders, cancer death rates for African Americans are 35% higher when compared to statistics for Caucasians. The death rates for prostate cancer (two times more) and lung cancer (27 times more) are disproportionately higher when compared to Caucasians. There are also gender differences among ethnic groups and specific cancers. Lung cancers in African American and Hawaiian men are evaluated compared with Caucasian males. Vietnamese females who live in the United States have five times more new cases of cervical cancer when compared to Caucasian women. Hispanic females also have a greater incidence of cervical cancer than Caucasian females. Additionally, Alaskan native men and women have a greater propensity for cancers in the rectum and colon than do Caucasians.


Born Antonia Coello was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, on August 23, 1944, the oldest of three children. At eight years old, she suffered two blows that she would carry all of her life. Her father, Antonio Coello, died, leaving her mother, Ana Delia Flores Coello, to raise her children alone until she later remarried Ramon Flores, an electrician. Novello was also diagnosed with a chronic condition called congenital megacolon, an illness in which her colon was overly large and not functioning properly, which required regular hospitalization. Although an operation would have helped Novello, it was not performed until she was 18 years old, and even after the surgery, complications followed her for years. Because of her childhood illness, Novello grew up wanting to be a doctor.

On October 17, 1989, President George Bush officially nominated Novello for Surgeon General. The fourteenth United States Surgeon General, Novello, sworn in on March 9, 1990, remarked that the American dream is well and alive … today the West Side Story comes to the West Wing. Novello was the first woman and the first Hispanic to be appointed Surgeon General of the United States. Noted for her philosophy of good science, good sense and for her approachability, Novello was dedicated to the prevention of AIDS, substance abuse, and smoking, as well as to the education of the American public. Her special concerns were for women, children, and hispanics'populations often overlooked by public health services.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for the leading cause of disability and death rates about equal to death from all other diseases combined. Cardiovascular disease can affect the patient's lifestyle and function in addition to having an impact on family members. The financial costs are very high. Among ethnic and racial groups cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. Stroke is the leading cause of cardiovascular related death, which occurs in higher numbers for Asian-American males when compared to Caucasian men. Mexican-American men and women and African-American males have a higher incidence of hypertension. African-American women have higher rates of being overweight, which is a major risk factor of cardiovascular disease.


Diabetes'a serious health problem in Americans and ethnic groups'is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. The prevalence of diabetes in African Americans is about 70% higher than Caucasians.


HIV infection/AIDS is the most common cause of death for all persons age 25 to 44 years old. Ethnic groups account for 25% of the United States population and 54% of all AIDS cases. In addition to sexual transmission there is an increase in HIV among ethnic groups related to intravenous drug usage.


Immunization, the reduction of preventable disease by vaccination, was lower in 1996, but the there has been a rapid increase in African Americans taking vaccinations. The coverage for immunization among African Americans and Hispanics for persons age 65 and over is currently below the general population. This may increase the death rates due to respiratory infections.

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