Minority Women More Likely Than White Women To Have Major Health Problems

Women of color in America are 11 times more likely than their white counterparts to contract AIDS, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

The study examined women’s health care disparities at the state level in America and concluded that minorities generally receive less care, and have a greater likelihood of being in poor health in every state in America. It also found that they were much more likely to suffer from chronic conditions with a greater risk for diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

The study, which took two years to complete and used federal Current Population Survey data, was released just as the issue of health care disparities is gaining increased attention within the nation’s broader health reform debate. Yesterday, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services convened a minority stakeholders meeting and released a summary report detailing disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in America. Also on Tuesday, a group of minority lawmakers said that a reform package that doesn’t address such disparities would face stiff opposition.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said state studies like the one released today make the disparities issue even more difficult to ignore. She, along with four other health officials as well as lawmakers and the report’s authors, spoke at an event in conjunction with the Kaiser study’s release. “To be honest, national reports… are wonderful, but you know it’s easy to distance yourself from them,” Clancy said. “When it’s your state and you can even bring it down one step further to a county or local community, suddenly you have to confront that information.” 

“We know nationally and from this report that there’s a gap, a big gap, particularly for women, between best possible health care quality and that which is routinely delivered,” she said. “I just think this is incredibly powerful, it doesn’t give solutions, but it is like having a GPS in your car.” 

Researchers concluded that 23 percent of women of color are uninsured compared with 13 percent of white women, and that 23 percent of women of color don’t have a high school diploma compared with 7 percent of white women. Both of these circumstances add to the likeliness of health problems. And each minority group faces specific sets of challenges, the study detailed. Hispanic women, for instance, face problems with access and utilization of care.