Annually, since 1995 public health professionals have celebrated National Public Health Week (NPHW), the first week of April. This year is no different as we bring together communities to recognize public health successes and advocate for current public health issues April 2 to April 8. This year’s theme is Healthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together. Each day during NPHW, there will be a focus on the following public health issues: behavioral health, communicable disease, environmental health, injury and violence prevention, and assurance to the right to health.
While we focus on the abovementioned themes during NPHW, it is also important to speak to and acknowledge that certain populations are disproportionately affected by these issues, as we observe National Minority Health Month during the month of April. According to the Office of Minority Health suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indian/Alaskan Natives between the ages of 10 and 34, but is the leading cause of death among American Indian/Alaskan Native girls between the ages of 10 and 14. The disparate rates of HIV infections among Black and Hispanic populations are also alarming compared to their white counterparts. African Americans account for 44% of HIV infections while Hispanics account for 25% of infections. Related to infant morality and maternal health, African American infants are 3.2 times more likely to die from issues related to low-birth weight compared to their white counterparts. Additionally, expecting black mothers are more likely to receive late or no prenatal care compared to white expecting mothers. With the recent high-profile stories of sexual injustices against women in Hollywood, women of color are often ill represented in national movements such as the #metoo movement. Or the ill acknowledgement of the gun violence and police brutality against women of color that often fail to make the 6 o’clock news as 11-year-old Naomi Wadler eloquently stated in her speech during the most recent March for Our Lives on Washington.
As we forge ahead in our respective professional or advocacy roles toward creating the healthiest nation, it is important that we focus on health equity and equality, ensuring that all people regardless of their racial and ethnic background and/or educational or income status have equal access and opportunities to a healthful quality of life. As we observe National Minority Health Month let us ensure that we increase awareness of how minority communities are disproportionately affected concerning their behavioral health, risk of contracting communicable disease, exposure to poor living environments, risk of injury and violence, and the unequal right to health.