Addressing health equity is crucial to the advancement of health services. No person should ever face higher health risks because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other attribute of their identity. Yet, disparities like these have long been observed in the health outcomes of minority groups, including rates of substance use disorder and treatment availability.
Every April, National Minority Health Month is observed to raise awareness for the importance of health equity. Because some racial and ethnic minorities can face increased health risks, it’s important to take this time to address these disparities and advocate for better outcomes in the health of both individuals and communities.
A History of Disparate Health Outcomes
Studies have found that American Indian and Alaska Native populations face a greater chance of suffering from alcohol use disorder or attempting suicide. Hispanic and Latino populations have high rates of mental health disorders and binge drinking. Members of African American communities are often predisposed to teenage alcohol use and misusing substances.
Of course, these aren’t the only racial or ethnic groups grappling with the perils of addiction. Substance use disorders can affect all people. However, because of the socioeconomic conditions disproportionately facing and impeding these minority communities, they also tend to experience more difficulties finding treatment.
According to SAMHSA, of those in need of treatment for substance use disorder, white individuals receive treatment 23.5% of the time, while Black and Hispanic individuals receive treatment 18.6% and 17.6% of the time respectfully. Improving health equity and access to care means working to remove these disparities, ensuring that everyone can receive the care they need regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Empowering Individuals on the Road to Better Health
One way to improve health outcomes for marginalized communities is by helping to advance the community’s health literacy. Health literacy is a term used to describe the ability to make informed decisions about one’s health and use the resources available to address their health needs.
Education and outreach can help improve the health literacy of communities. Providing resources to the public that will help them address their own health needs is important. But having appropriate services available when they do seek help is also vital.
Roughly 20% of people in the U.S. speak a language other than English in the home. Additionally, over 60% of racial and ethnic minority patients state that it is at least somewhat important to visit a health care provider who shares or understands their culture. To meet the healthcare needs of under-represented communities, it’s important that diverse and comprehensive health services and personnel are available. Effective communication and understanding are crucial to positive health outcomes.
A Better Future for the Recovery Community
At Spectrum, we’re committed to improving and increasing access to care for everyone who needs it. We honor the pioneers of health equity who have worked to reduce the discrepancies in health outcomes, and we recently launched our new mobile treatment service van to help bring addiction treatment to underserved communities. We also work with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) committee to update and maintain procedures and offer DE&I trainings both virtually and in-person. But because we believe the treatment community should truly be welcoming to all, our work won’t be done until everyone has the resources they need to recover.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.