Addressing minority women's health

Women smiling

We’ve worked hard over the past 30 years to improve the health of all Americans. In 1985, HHS released its first-ever national report on the health of minorities – the Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health. At the time of this landmark report, 60,000 more deaths occurred each year in minority populations than in the white population. The report’s results prompted HHS to establish the Office of Minority Health (OMH) in 1986.  Over the years, OMH’s campaigns and programs, such as the 2011 National Partnership for Action plan, have helped raise awareness of and worked to overcome health disparities for minorities.

Improvements in health care have led to a reduction in, and in some cases elimination of, disparities in certain areas. For example, more minority women are getting mammogram screenings for breast cancer, getting treatment with antibiotics earlier, and seeking counseling for smoking cessation.1 Today, some minority women have a longer life expectancy than white women. Latinas in the United States have the longest life expectancy at almost 84 years, compared with 81 years for white women.2 Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian women all have lower death rates from heart disease when compared with white women.3 Lung cancer death rates have been declining for African-American females since 2003, while breast cancer deaths have been declining among African-American women since 1991.4

The overall health of American women has improved over the past few decades, but not all women have benefitted equally. Minority women have experienced similar declines, compared with white women, in the leading causes of death,5, 6 but serious health disparities still exist. Many minority women continue to lag behind white women in a number of areas, including quality of care, access to care, timeliness, and outcomes. Although there have been improvements in minority women’s health, we still have a lot of progress to make.

A focus on reducing health disparities remains a top priority for HHS. A 2013 CDC report, Health Disparities and Inequalities, found that women and almost all minority groups were more likely to report poor health.7  The 2011 HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparitiesoutlines goals and actions that HHS, with leadership from OMH, will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. The Affordable Care Act is working to address barriers to care by providing preventive services for all women and helping millions of minority women get insurance.8

Sources

  1. AHRQ, Minority Health: Recent Findings, Program Brief
  2. HRSA, Women’s Health USA 2011
  3. NIH, NHLBI, 2012 NHLBI Morbidity and Mortality Chart Book
  4. NIH, NCI, SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2010 National Cancer Institute
  5. NIH, NHLBI, 2012 NHLBI Morbidity and Mortality Chart Book
  6. NIH, NCI, SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2010 National Cancer Institute
  7. CDC, CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report – U.S. 2013
  8. HHS, The Affordable Care Act