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Health disparities are preventable variances in the health of population. These often reflect differences in geographical location, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and education of the population in question. Disparities often arise from the genetic predisposition to disease, the lack of preventive knowledge, insufficient access to health care and poverty. The American Southwest has a large population consisting of different ethnic groups, including Latinos, African Americans and whites. Significant health disparities within these populations are mostly ethnic-based.
Health Disparities of Concern to the Southwest United States
Due to historical reasons, the American population in the Southwest has suffered from health disparities of many kinds for a long time. The civilization and even the establishment of the Indian Health Service (IHS) have lessened these, but have not wiped them out completely.
The rates of type 2 diabetes among Hispanic Americans living in Southwest America are among the highest in the country (Pérez-Escamilla & Putnik, 2007). The age-adjusted death rate of the American Indian and Alaska populations is about forty percent higher than that of the general population. These deaths mostly result from diabetes, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease. The disparities witnessed in the Southwest American states are historic. Several scientists have come up with different models to explain the high prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus among the American Indians in the Southwest. For instance, in 1962, Neel proposed a “thrifty” genotype model to explain this health disparity. Since then, several other models have appeared based upon this one, and most of them implicate both genetics and the lifestyles of the American Indians (Kachinski, 2010).
Another health disparity witnessed in the Southwestern states is a higher rate of infant mortality. Statistics obtained from the Indian Health Service and the National Center for Health Statistics points out the fact that the number of post-neonatal death cases among the American Indians and Alaskans is almost twice as high as that of the general American population (Tomashek, 2006). It arises from a higher rate of influenza, pneumonia, homicide and fetal alcohol spectrum of disorders, being much higher among the American Indians than the rest of the American population. It precipitates from the general quality of healthcare provided to the American Indians, which is much lower than that of the general American population.
Solutions to Disparities
In order to alleviate or eliminate these disparities altogether, there is the need to find out their root causes. Efforts also need to be taken to enhance the delivery of health care, prevent diseases and promote health. Research must also be intensified in order to identify various health risks, determinants of diseases and possible interventions in prevention and treatment.
Special emphasis needs to be laid in addressing the underlying socio-economic causes of health disparities. The latter can be minimized by investing a lot of resources in health facilities and programs that promote good health. Often, hospitals serving the population inhabiting the Southwest are understaffed, underequipped, and scarce. Therefore, people are not only served by inadequate health facilities, but the latter themselves are also inadequately staffed and equipped. Improving this situation and equipping hospitals to their maximum potential will help to alleviate the situation.
Another underlying cause of health disparities that are of significance in the Southwestern United States is the educational status of people. In order to surmount this difficulty, programs must be put in place to enhance education and health among people in this region of the USA.
The health disparities witnessed in the Southwest United States have existed for a long time. However, such measures as health promotion, the identification of determinants of diseases and the delivery of appropriate health care can significantly reduce them in this part of the USA.
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