Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NIH Health Disparities Conference Focuses on Success in Addressing Gaps

The National Institute of Health in a fact sheet on health disparities frames the issue in this way: "Americans enjoyed improved health and longer lives during the latter part of the 20th century. However, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, who represented 25 percent of the U.S. population, continued to experience striking health disparities, including shorter life expectancy and higher rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, substance abuse, and infant mortality and low birth weight. Scientists believed these health disparities resulted from the complex interaction among several factors such as biology, the environment, and specific behaviours that were significantly impacted by a shortage of racial and ethnic minority health professionals, discrimination, and inequities in income, education, and access to health care."

In Kentucky, Appalachia also is impacted by high poverty levels, a shortage of health professionals, inequities in education and access to health care. HEEL was funded to address the rural health disparities in health literacy. One such project is Team UP! which successfully leveraged a state and local partnership to improve screening rates of never or rarely screened women in 9 east Kentucky counties. This project is being presented at a poster session at the NIH Summit on the Science of Health Disparities this week in National Harbor, MD.

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