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New report details Minnesota’s health inequities

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
Patients in Greater Minnesota overall had poorer health outcomes than patients in the 13-county Metro area.

Minnesotans from certain racial, ethnic, language and country-of-origin groups tend to have poorer health outcomes than others living in the state, according to a new report.

“We’re one of the healthiest states in the nation,” said Jim Chase, president of MN Community Measurement, the nonprofit group that published the report, in a phone interview with MinnPost. “But there are a number of populations that aren’t having the same opportunity to achieve that health level.”

Those groups include people living in Greater Minnesota, people of color, people who identify as Hispanic, immigrants and people who do not speak proficient English, he said.

“This report also shows that medical groups around the state are trying to change those inequities,” Chase added. “Not all of it can be done by medical groups, obviously. There are a lot of patient factors, social factors that cause this. But the report has some stories of what groups are doing to try and reduce the disparities.”

One of those stories involves South Lake Pediatrics, a Twin Cities-based medical practice with six locations in the western suburbs. It has achieved high rates of asthma control among its patients, which include large percentages from the black, Asian and Somali-speaking populations, the report notes.

Another tale of success highlighted in the report is that of the Gargar Clinic in Minneapolis’s Seward neighborhood. Founded in 2011 to serve the growing Somali and Oromo communities, the clinic has achieved a relatively high rate of screening for depression and other mental health issues, as well as a high rate of educating its patients about the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, the report says.

Several layers of data

Medical groups throughout Minnesota voluntarily provided the data used in the MN Community Measurement report. After the data was collected, researchers evaluated it by seven separate measures: adolescent mental health and/or depression screening, adolescent overweight counseling, colorectal cancer screening, optimal asthma control for adults, optimal asthma control for children, optimal diabetes care and optimal vascular care. The information was then further broken down by race, Hispanic ethnicity, preferred language and country of origin.

Here is MN Community Measurement’s summary of the key findings from its report:

  • White patients generally had better health care outcomes across most measures and most geographic areas.
  • Patients in Greater Minnesota overall had poorer health outcomes than patients in the 13-county Metro area.
  • Patients born in Asian countries tend to have better outcomes across multiple quality measures and geographic regions than patients in other country of origin groups.
  • Generally, patients from large medical groups in the Metro area had higher rates of optimal care.
  • Across measures and geographic areas, American Indian or Alaska Native and Black or African American patients generally had the lowest health outcomes both statewide and regionally.
  • Hispanic patients generally had poorer health care outcomes than non-Hispanic patients across all quality measures and most geographic regions.
  • Patients born in Laos, Somalia and Mexico generally had poorer outcomes than other groups.
  • Patients who preferred speaking Hmong, Somali and Spanish generally had lower screening and care rates compared to other preferred language groups. 

Poverty has major impact 

As background information in the report points out, other research suggests that about one-half of a person’s health in the United States is affected by his or her own individual behaviors and the health care system.

The remainder of their health status is the result of their socioeconomic status.

“There is growing recognition of the role that social determinants of health — the conditions on which people are born, grow, work, live, and age — play in the disparities that are documented within the health care delivery system,” the MN Community Measurement researchers write.

Indeed, in a study published online Tuesday in the journal The Lancet, researchers reported that people living in poverty are 1.5 times (46 percent) more likely to die before they reach the age of 85 than their more economically advantaged peers.

Those researchers concluded that low socioeconomic status should be considered a major risk factor on its own for poor health and early death.

For more information: You can download and read MN Community Measurement’s 2016 Health Equity of Care report on the organization’s website. The report is published in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/03/2017 - 11:11 am.

    No one should be surprised

    …by these conclusions. If you grow up eating a healthy, varied diet, you’ll probably continue as an adult. If you grow up thinking a bowl of cheese doodles is a normal meal, you’ll probably continue to consume junk “food” in sizable amounts for as long as your body’s tortured systems can manage. Families knowledgeable enough and affluent enough to purchase healthy foods are likely to enjoy better health than families with relatively little education, especially about matter of health, and/or families lacking the financial resources to purchase healthier alternatives to whatever is on sale today at the local convenience store.

    Local/family culture and income make a huge difference in both health and longevity, and what the conclusions of the report emphasize, for me, at least, is that poverty carries with it multiple disadvantages, few of which are the responsibility of the child growing up in that circumstance.

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