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This National Minority Health Month, Promote Health Equity by Giving Your Community a Boost


By Alex Fernandez

Help improve health equity and minority vaccination rates in your place of practice with these Minority Health Month tools and resources.

April is National Minority Health Month — a month dedicated to reducing health disparities in minority communities all across the country while highlighting methods and resources to help improve the overall health of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are banding together to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccinations — including booster shots — for minority populations disproportionately affected by the virus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) has declared the theme of this year’s Minority Health Month “Give Your Community a Boost!” and is focused on providing resources to improve vaccination rates and combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. In addition to this, the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project has released various resources related to their “Count Me In” vaccine campaign to help create an open dialogue regarding vaccinations.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is proud to stand by its partners in the health care field and would like to take this opportunity to share recommendations and resources for supporting health equity and vaccinations in the communities that nurse practitioners (NPs) serve.

Understanding Social Determinants of Health in Relation to COVID-19

To better comprehend the struggles for health equity and the disparities currently being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, one must first become familiar with social determinants of health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social determinants of health (SDoH) are defined as the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.” These can fall into five key categories: quality and access to health care, access to quality education, social and community contexts, economic stability and one’s own neighborhood.

As noted by AANP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee member Sheri Rickman Patrick, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, in a recent AANP News Feed article, “Our bodies internally are all the same. Our hearts, lungs, kidneys and liver all work the same, so we should not base care on one’s race. But social determinants of health — socioeconomic status, environmental issues, where you live — can affect your health.” While NPs understand that their patients are all the same internally, patients from racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately lack access to reliable transportation, may have lower incomes that reduce their ability to access health care services and may live in poorer home conditions — all of which increase their chances of COVID-19 transmission.

Since the onset of the pandemic, many studies have come to show how these disparities are reflected in COVID-19 statistics. The percent of cases for racial and ethnic minority groups are higher than the percent of these populations within the total U.S. population. Studies show that only 7% of the white population has tested positive, as compared to positive test results reported from 13.8% of the Black population, 11.9% of the Hispanic or Latino population and 7.2% of the Asian population. This same trend can be seen when looking at COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. If you are looking to better familiarize yourself with health disparities stemming from the pandemic, please review the CDC’s guide to COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

Navigating Vaccine Hesitancy and Dispelling COVID-19 Misinformation

When asked about the most vital issues in the struggle for health equity during a recent AANP News Feed article interview, AANP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee member Larider Ruffin, DNP, APN, NP-C, RN, ANP-BC, A-GNP, CRNP, CTTS, FAAN, said, “We have a problem with misinformation and racial inequality in our country. When we talk about COVID-19 vaccines and the things we can do to bring us closer to a pre-pandemic state, there is no question that we need to get the population vaccinated. However, I see a lot of mistrust in the medical profession from the African American community. This mistrust stems from a history of inequality in our country. It is something that causes a lot of unease for NPs, like myself, whose patients refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine because of the unfair experiences they have had with the medical profession.”

The spread of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccines has been characterized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an “infodemic” that poses a significant threat to the health of the nation. In order to dispel COVID-19 misinformation and help rebuild trust in the health care community, the HHS Office of the Surgeon General has released a collection of Health Misinformation Reports and Publications. Part of this collection, The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Healthy Information Environment, provides guidance for practicing NPs and health care professionals on how to speak to their patients about — and help dispel — COVID-19 myths. The advisory suggests that you engage with your patients and “take the time to understand each patient’s knowledge, beliefs and values. Listen with empathy, and when possible, correct misinformation in personalized ways.”

By providing various tools and educational resources, AANP is proud to aid NPs in their efforts to improve vaccine confidence. NPs looking to promote health equity in their communities can join two experts, Ruth Carrico, PhD, DNP, APRN, CIC, FSHEA, FNAP, and Hudson Garrett, MPH, MBA, CPHQ, CPPS, FSHEA, FNAP , FIDSA, as they discuss the current landscape of COVID-19 vaccination in The NP’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence — Part 2, which is available in the AANP CE Center. By enrolling in this on-demand webinar, you can review the latest case studies and findings on vaccine efficacy as you develop evidence-based strategies to help improve vaccine uptake in vulnerable communities. If you'd like to learn more about the common reasons for vaccine hesitancy in patient populations, then listen to the latest podcast episode of NP Pulse: The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®, which is on combatting common COVID-19 vaccination myths.

Keeping Up to Date on the Latest COVID-19 Recommendations

As we now arrive at the third year of COVID-19, official recommendations and guidance on how to stop the spread of the virus have seen numerous changes. These frequent updates have proven difficult for many patients trying to stay safe during the pandemic. In order to make information about the virus more accessible to people in non-English speaking communities, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released multilingual COVID-19 toolkits in six languages. Utilize these toolkits to help communicate important information to your patients in minority communities, and advise your English speaking patients to continue checking the official CDC recommendations for ways to protect themselves and others from the virus that causes COVID-19.

As patients continue to seek guidance from their NPs on how to navigate this pandemic, it is important that you stay up to date on all the latest information regarding COVID-19 cases, vaccines and recommendations. You can visit the COVID-19 Recommendations for Nurse Practitioners webpage for the latest COVID-19 statistics and resources. Throughout the month of April, continue to check the OMH website for more National Minority Health Month information and resources, and stay tuned for the upcoming launch of the National Minority Health Month Partnership Program.

Make Strides Toward Health Equity With AANP

Are you looking for other ways to help promote health equity in your community and your professional association? AANP is committed to empowering all NPs to advance high-quality, equitable health care — while addressing health disparities — through practice, education, advocacy, research and leadership. Make plans to attend the 2022 AANP National Conference June 21-26 in Orlando, Florida, for access to several in-person sessions covering various aspects of DEI. Join the Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion AANP Community to engage in vibrant conversations on this important topic with your NP colleagues. Visit the AANP CE Center to enroll in a variety of Diversity and Inclusion courses from past AANP conferences and events and get to learn more about your association’s DEI Committee.

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