Multicultural Health Focus: Youth and Health Disparities (The Problem Is Worse than You Think)

March 30, 2011
MDNG Primary Care, March 2011, Volume 13, Issue 2

Recent reports show that disparities in healthcare access and quality among racial and ethnic groups may be even more pronounced among children

Recent reports show that disparities in healthcare access and quality among racial and ethnic groups may be even more pronounced among children .

In recent years, much attention has been focused on health disparities that exist among certain racial and ethnic groups. Much of the focus, however, has been on adults, despite the fact that children and adolescents from certain minority groups suffer disproportionately from a number of preventable diseases and health problems.

A report published by the CDC (http://HCP.LV/fkaCHa) in January cited significant disparities in infant mortality rates, stating that infants born to black women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to die than those born to women of other races or ethnicities. It also found that although rates of adolescent pregnancy and childbirth have been falling or holding steady for all racial and ethnic minorities in all age groups, disparities still persist, as birth rates for Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are 3 and 2.5 times those of whites, respectively.

The report is the first in a series on health disparities and inequities that the CDC plans to release in an effort to increase awareness among health care professionals, public officials, and patients of the gaps that exist in care.

Health disparities, defined by the CDC as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations,” often begin early in life. Therefore, one of the organization’s key goals is to address discrepancies in children and adolescents, and work to reverse the trends.

More highlights from the CDC report (http://HCP.LV/gRb0Dd):

• Compared with white youth, African American and Hispanic youth have higher prevalences of asthma, overweight, and type 2 diabetes.

• In 2007, African American youth accounted for approximately 68% of new HIV/AIDS cases among 13—19 year olds, even though they represented only 15% of the population in that age group.

• Hispanic youth experience proportionately more anxiety-related behaviors and depression than do non-Hispanic white youth.

• Among youth aged 10—19 years, American Indians have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes of any racial/ethnic group.

Online CME

Visit the links below to improve your knowledge of health disparities in the primary care setting:

• Addressing and Understanding Healthcare Disparities (

• Cultural Nuances and Challenges in Diagnosing and Treating Depression (http://HCP.LV/dAEzsz)

• Reducing Health Disparities in Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Populations (http://HCP.LV/gHfmtk)

• Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Treatment of Acute Myocardial Infarction (http://HCP.LV/fO1m7l)

From the Literature

Race and Perceived Smoking Prevalence

Findings from a national survey suggest that African American, Hispanic, and American Indian youth exhibit the highest rates of perceived smoking prevalence, while white and Asian youth exhibit the lowest. The authors found that minority youth are disproportionately exposed to social contextual factors that correlate with high perceived smoking prevalence. http://HCP.LV/fWNWju

Seroconversion Risk in Young Homosexual Men

African American and Latino men who have sex with men “may be at increased risk for seroconversion because they tend to start having sex at a younger age than their white and Asian/Pacific Islander peers, and because they engage in unprotected sexual behaviors with men of concordant race/ethnicity and of a similar age where levels of viremia may be more elevated but not because of the sheer number of sexual partners,” according to findings from a cross-section study of men between the ages of 13 and 29 living in New York City. http://HCP.LV/gPdVbt

Environmental Exposures and Preterm Birth

Clues about potential mechanisms underlying disparities in preterm birth can be obtained from exploring differences in environmental exposures, according to the authors of this study, who state that “such efforts should result in targeted interventions to decrease the incidence of preterm birth and its disparities.”