New Minority Health Data Shows Progress in Some Areas, but Disparities Persist

Albany, N.Y. (September 28, 2007) - A new Minority Health Surveillance Report released today by the state Department of Health shows progress in reducing minority health disparities for certain diseases and access to care. But minorities continue to experience lower health status when measured against other groups and the population as a whole.

The report, covering health data for the years 2003-2004, showed lower death rates for minorities in HIV/AIDS, asthma, cerebrovascular disease, heart disease, male colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and female breast cancer compared with minority rates for these diseases 10 years earlier. Rates for minorities were also lower for homicide, suicide, motor vehicle injuries and other injuries, and teenage pregnancy.

Minorities also showed gains on some measures reflecting better access to health care. For example, the rate of early diagnosis of prostate cancer was nearly 90 percent for all racial/ethnic groups compared with rates ranging from 68 percent to 77 percent 10 years earlier.

Other trends showed downward movement or no gains. For example, a study of white, black and Hispanic children in the WIC program showed higher rates of obesity in 2004 than they did in 1995. The percent of low birthweight births increased for all groups except Hispanics.

"Although some gains have been made, racial and ethnic minorities continue to experience a disproportionate burden of disease," said New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D, at a meeting Friday with the New York State Minority Health Council in New York City. "People of color continue to have dramatically higher rates of HIV infection, Hispanics have higher incidence of diabetes deaths, and African Americans have higher rates of death from cancer."

Commissioner Daines discussed new state initiatives to improve the health of minorities, focusing on the use of three major tools: access to health insurance, quality incentives tied to health care reimbursement, and health information technology. He said he has asked State Health Department programs to increase their efforts to find better ways to improve the prevention and management of chronic diseases in minorities and increase their access to high-quality health care.

Dr. Daines asked members of the Minority Health Council to assist the department's efforts by studying and making recommendations in three primary areas:

  • How to get more minorities who are eligible for public health insurance programs to enroll in these programs.
  • How health care reimbursement formulas can be changed to encourage and reward greater delivery of primary and preventive care.
  • The development of incentives for more minorities to become physicians in order to increase access for minorities to culturally and linguistically appropriate health care. Dr. Daines noted that studies have shown that minorities prefer health care that is delivered by someone of their own race or ethnicity and who speaks their language.

The New York State Minority Health Surveillance Report can be downloaded from the State Health Department's Web site at: www.health.ny.gov/community/minority/docs/2007_minority_health_report.pdf