Did You Know?

Did You Know? - Health Disparities

Did you know… Minnesotans overall are a pretty healthy population (rated #7 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings)? However, we also have some of the biggest gaps in health for certain groups of people compared to others.

How did the gaps get created? These gaps in health, or health disparities, come from barriers that prevent certain individuals and communities from reaching their full potential. There are many types of barriers, formed in the social determinants of health, and can include economic stability, education, social and community context and the built environment. Health disparities are one way we can measure our progress toward achieving health equity, where everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health.  

A 2014 report from the Minnesota Department of Health provides these and other stats:

  • American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, and African American youth have the highest rates of obesity.  
  • Gay, lesbian and bisexual university students are more likely than their heterosexual peers to have struggles with their mental health. 
  • Persons with serious and persistent mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general public. 

The people who experience health disparities do not have favorable social or economic conditions, which are two strong predictors of health outcomes. For example, 

  • Unemployment is highest among populations of color, American Indians, and people who live in rural Minnesota. 
  • While 75 percent of the white population in Minnesota owns their own home, only 21 percent of African Americans, 45 percent of Hispanic/Latinos, 47 percent of American Indians, and 54 percent of Asian Pacific Islanders own their own homes. 
  • African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos in Minnesota have less than half the per-capita income of the white population. 

How do we achieve health equity and diminish these disparities? We value all people equally. We optimize the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, learn and age. We work with all sectors in the community to address the factors that influence health, including employment, housing, education, health care, public safety and food access. We name racism as a force in determining how these social determinants are distributed. Health equity will be achieved when everyone is able to reach their full health potential.  

(Video from the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University)

How do you think we can eliminate health disparities? What do you think are some of the structural causes of these disparities?  We'd love to know your thoughts — visit our Facebook post and submit a comment. 

Our "Did You Know?" features are to help members of our communities better understand what supports health, how health is created in the community and how structures inside the community have an influence on health.