Report Makes Recommendations for Improving Racial, Ethnic Health Disparities in Kansas
Blacks and Hispanics in Kansas are more likely than whites to smoke, have high blood pressure, and be obese or physically inactive, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas Health Institute News reports (Kansas Health Institute News, 2/11). The report -- written by David Williams of Harvard University and called "Working Together for a Healthier Kansas" -- outlines strategies to address infant mortality, obesity rates, tobacco use, nutrition, and disparities in access to care among racial and ethnic minorities, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports (Bills, Topeka Capital-Journal, 2/12).
Williams recently presented the findings of the report to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. According to the report, 40% of blacks in the state are overweight or obese, 37% have high blood pressure and nearly 12% are depressed (Kansas Health Institute News, 2/11). The report also found that the highest death rates from stroke recorded among white men ages 35 and older are still lower than the lowest death rates from stroke among black men of the same age. In addition, if white residents were taken as an individual state, it would rank seventh nationwide in infant mortality, compared with 50th for blacks (Topeka Capital-Journal, 2/12).
The report also found that health disparities are not all racial or ethnic as education and income are major health determinants. Williams said, "Factors such as adequate income, education, housing and neighborhoods, nutrition, stress, social support, personal behavior and medical care have all been shown to influence health." He called for collaboration among individuals, religious institutions, businesses and government to create "a culture of wellness." He said, "There's an opportunity for every one of us to improve" by eating healthier and exercising, "[b]ut individual responsibility is not enough. There's also a social responsibility to remove the barriers to good health" (Kansas Health Institute News, 2/11). He added, "This problem did not develop overnight, and it will not be solved overnight" (Topeka Capital-Journal, 2/12).
The report is available online (.pdf).