health disparities language access

Minorities compose about one-third of the population in the United States. In fact, minority groups are expected to compose half of the U.S. population by 2045. Despite their large numbers, racial and ethnic minorities experience significant disparities across a large number of health status measures and outcomes.

These disparities are driven by a host of issues, including work status, education, and income, as well as poor housing and other environmental factors. They are also driven by failures within the healthcare system to provide appropriate language access, which results in problems accessing services and worse health outcomes.

Everyone deserves access to quality care, yet statistics like the ones below indicate that we have a way to go in bridging healthcare gaps for racial and ethnic minorities.

  1. Racial/ethnic minorities are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than whites to develop a chronic disease.

  2. The infant mortality rate per 1,000 births in the United States for whites is 4.9. That number rises to 5.8 when all other ethnicities are factored in.

  3. Breast cancer mortality for Hispanic women is 40 percent higher in the United States than for white women. Hispanic women who get breast cancer are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage than white women.

  4. The incidence of diabetes in Hispanic youth is 4 times higher than for white youths. Forty-five percent of Hispanic boys and 53 percent of Hispanic girls living in the U.S. are predicted to develop diabetes in their lifetimes.

  5. Asian Americans have the highest incidence rates for both liver and stomach cancers and are twice as likely to die from these cancers as whites are. Meanwhile, Hispanic women are twice as likely as white women to have cervical cancer.

  6. In general, minorities have less access to, and less availability of, mental health services. Asian-American and multiracial college students are more likely than white students to have considered or attempted suicide.

  7. AIDS cases are substantially more common in the Hispanic population than the white population. Hispanics are 5 times more likely to have AIDS than whites.

  8. Minorities living in the U.S. generally rate their health as poorer than whites. Nearly 18 percent of Hispanics rate their health as poor, as compared to 11 percent of whites.

  9.  Health disparities may be partially attributable to a lack of health insurance among minority populations. Fifty-five percent of the 32.3 million non-elderly uninsured are people of color. 

  10.  A fewer number of health practitioners are ethnic minorities. Significant disparities exist in medical education

Going forward

The Affordable Care Act has helped narrow disparities in healthcare coverage for minorities and low-income individuals. However, there is much more work to do. All healthcare organizations and agencies should conduct ongoing assessments of their service delivery to minority communities to alleviate disparities in healthcare. A component of this is to remove language barriers with diverse communities, thereby ensuring meaningful access to health services and programs regardless of language. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health is an excellent resource for information about addressing the health needs of populations who speak limited English.

LanguageLine® Can Help!

For more than four decades, we’ve made addressing these health disparities a major priority. We believe that being understood is empowering. LanguageLine continues to work with healthcare organizations and government agencies to overcome language and cultural hurdles for limited English proficient populations. Please contact us so that we can learn more about your organization and the challenges you are facing.

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