President’s Message: Give your community a boost
By Najja R. Orr, MBA, PCA president & CEO
April is National Minority Health Month, an observance that builds awareness about the disproportionate burden of premature death and illness in minority populations.
Racial and ethnic disparities in health care – whether in insurance coverage, access or quality of care – are among many factors producing inequalities in health status in older adults. Eliminating these disparities is sensitive and challenging, in part because their causes are intertwined with racial discrimination and the history of race relations in our nation. Nonetheless, assuring greater equity and accountability in health care is imperative because, first and foremost, it matters to people who are suffering from health disparities now, and it will also lead to improving our nation’s overall health and reducing unnecessary health care costs.
Consider these key facts on race, ethnicity and health care in the U.S. from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF):
• Racial/ethnic health disparities persist even when comparing minorities and whites of the same education level, income and occupation.
• Uninsured adults across racial/ethnic groups are at least twice as likely to go without a doctor visit in the past year.
• Black and Latino adults are less likely to rely on a private physician for their medical care than whites. Lack of preventive and primary care services is associated with a delay in seeking care and a higher likelihood of being hospitalized. The result is often poor health outcomes and higher health care costs.
Significant gains in closing the minority health gap can be made by addressing social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. They include factors like socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment and financial security, social support networks and health care access. Researchers have found evidence of successful outcomes to support disparity-reducing policy interventions targeted at education, urban planning and community development, housing, income enhancements and supplements, and employment. Cost-effectiveness evaluations show that these interventions also lead to long-term societal savings.
Minority Health Month encourages action through health education, early detection and control of disease complications. The disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have recently brought these longstanding health disparities into sharper focus. The U.S. Office of Minority Health has adopted the theme of “Give Your Community a Boost!” for this year, focusing on the continued importance of COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters, as one of the strongest tools available to end the pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color.
Empathy in action
April is also National Volunteer Month, which presents an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world. The 2022 theme, “Volunteering is Empathy in Action,” affirms the strong connection between volunteerism and compassion for others. This profound human connection is at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities.
PCA benefits from the incredible dedication, talents and experience of older adults to support many of its programs. (See page 4 for more information.) This month, and throughout the year, we take the time to show our appreciation for volunteers who give selflessly of their time to help make the lives of others brighter.