The Effects of Disparities on Minority Population
Author: Teressa Hunter, PhD, RN, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Professions, Langston University
Published August 2023
These disparities may disproportionately affect you if you are a minority. These words are littered throughout textbooks and learning materials for those wishing to be health professionals everywhere. But why? What can higher learning institutions do about it?
Margaret Heckler, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, released “The Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health (1983-1985),” which revealed the health status of racial and ethnic minorities to a national audience (United States Department of Health and Human Services. Task Force on Black and Minority Health, 1985-1986). Even today, the health of minorities remains in national headlines, and many of the disparities between minority groups and other Americans have not changed.
In response, to the call for action about what higher learning institutions can do, Langston University began the Issues in Minority Health class in 1996, the first diversity course introduced to the University’s nursing curriculum. The name of the course was changed in 2018 with the assistance of faculty to Disparities among Minority Populations to make a better statement about the health imbalances minority populations face.
This course is important because it directly relates to a population our graduates are called to serve, and the awareness of health disparities and health problems that affect minorities is important to providing care. The course also addresses culture and how beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and goals can affect health care and health outcomes (Oxford English Dictionary).
Topics discussed in the class include an overview of Black and minority health issues and health promotion and cultural competence; cross-cultural concepts of health and disease; individual and societal factors influencing health status; cross-cultural communication and health literacy; health and disease of Black Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and much more.
It is important to get feedback from graduates to find out how this course helped them in their practice. The feedback helps faculty know what topics to teach that will guide best practices for our graduates.
Sydney Carter, RN, a Langston University alumna and Nursing School graduate, said the course gave her knowledge about different cultural beliefs and practices and how they can affect healthcare. “As a new nurse, I incorporate what I learned into the care I provide for patients every day.” Carter said. “Being aware that care for different races and ethnicities needs to be patient-care centered helps me provide the best care, which can contribute to better patient outcomes.”
Camille Beavers Moore, RN, a Langston University Alumna and Nursing School graduate, stated, “These are not the only communities affected by health disparities”. She internalized what she learned throughout the class and purposely chose to start her career at Dallas County’s only public hospital and one of the largest in the nation, to assist disparaged minority communities.
According to Moore, “Health care disparities are not limited to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities,” Moore said. “They apply to the poor, homeless, veterans, LGBTQ+ communities, and more. These disparities will manifest daily until we (RNs) stop pacifying the problem with temporary solutions. One hospital stay cannot fix health disparities like literacy, limited income, and lack of support.”
“Cultural connectiveness buffers against the harmful effects of discrimination, social and economic disadvantage, racism, and acculturative stress.” (Gibson, Stuart, Leske, Ward, and Vidyattama, (2021), p.644). This course helps the students build cultural connections, which will help them connect with each other and their clients based on a shared understanding of the beliefs, customs, and morals of minority populations and how culture can affect health outcomes.
Students present the information they learned in the Disparities among Minority Populations course at the Cultural Diversity Forum in the Fall and the Minority Health Forum in the Spring. The students assist with designing the programs, including recommending speakers. The presentations are often based on papers or posters created as part of the course. Some of the topics presented during previous Cultural Diversity and Minority Health Forums are Minority Health Across the Continuum, Mental Health Issues Affecting Minority Health, Raising Awareness through Education of Issues Affecting Minority Health, Cultural Competence: Listen with Your Heart, Improving Minority Health through Cultural Communication, and Minority Health in the Time of COVID-19.
Community agencies are also invited to participate in the forums because the more knowledge we disseminate, the greater the possibility that better healthcare outcomes can be documented.
The Disparities among Minority Populations course and clinical practice during the time the students are in nursing school gives our students the information and hands-on ability to provide the best care for all patients.
The Langston University School of Nursing and Health Professions wants to ensure that our graduates are culturally competent, with the ultimate goal being for each to become culturally proficient, not just in words but in how they provide care to all populations.