Every Bay Area resident deserves high-quality, respectful medical care. Unfortunately, many people, especially minorities, face significant healthcare barriers. While San Francisco and the Bay Area have lower rates of health inequities than other U.S. regions, there’s still room for improvement. At Canopy Health, we’re trying to be part of the solution.
Why Do We Have a National Minority Health Month?
More than 100 years ago, Booker T. Washington identified a need for increased attention to minority healthcare. His suggestion for a “health week,” grew over time into the current month-long initiative. National Minority Health Month focuses on health inequities that impact racial, ethnic, and other minority groups. The theme for the 2018 National Minority Health Month is “Partnering for Health Equity.”
Health inequities are avoidable differences in health and wellness that are based on economic, environmental, and social factors. Minority groups, including people of color, LGBT individuals, and non-English speakers are particularly vulnerable to health disparities and inequities.
Health Inequities in San Francisco and the Bay Area
The Bay Area has remarkable diversity:
- People of color make up 58.3% of San Francisco’s population.
- About one-third of the city is Asian.
- Latino and multi-ethnic populations are steadily increasing.
- About one-third of the San Francisco’s residents are foreign-born.
- The Bay Area has one of the country’s highest percentages of LGBT residents.
While our community’s diversity offers many benefits, there is clear evidence that it also leads to serious health inequities.
Socioeconomic Barriers to Healthcare
Minority groups tend to face higher levels of financial insecurity. For example, while the median White household income is $107,988 in San Francisco, the median Black household income is $33,714, and the median Latino household income is $65,219. And about 50% of the Bay Area’s homeless youth are LGBT.
Generally speaking, a higher income provides better access to health resources — such as quality insurance coverage, safe housing, healthy food, reliable transportation to-and-from appointments, and time for self-care. In San Francisco, lower-income residents have higher rates of hospitalization, asthma, obesity, and infants with a low birth weight.
Linguistic Barriers to Healthcare
Approximately 23% of San Francisco’s residents speak English with limited fluency. Other than English, Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog are the three most prevalent languages in the city. When your ability to speak and read English is limited, your chance of misunderstanding your healthcare options and incorrectly taking medications increases. Further, some non-English speakers are uncomfortable discussing their health problems in front of an interpreter.
Cultural Barriers to Healthcare
Discrimination and poor relationships with medical providers can harm your health and wellness. On average, San Francisco’s Black residents live 11 years less than their White counterparts. Similarly, Black mothers are far more likely to die during or after childbirth, regardless of their socioeconomic status. To make matters worse, many minority groups avoid medical treatment because they have experienced discrimination or hostility in a healthcare setting in the past.
Other times, medical providers might have inadequate training on how to discuss health issues with underserved populations. While San Francisco’s Asian residents rarely seek mental health treatment, they have the second-highest rates of suicide in the city.
What Can We Do to Improve Minority Health and Wellness?
Fixing our community’s health inequities isn’t a quick or easy process. It requires a multi-prong approach to healthcare that involves:
- Increasing the number of minority medical providers in the Bay Area
- Improving outreach to underserved populations and educating them about resources within their communities
- Offering understandable health information in multiple languages and increasing healthcare literacy in underserved populations
- Offering high-quality care throughout the Bay Area
- Educating medical providers about the unique needs of underserved populations
Canopy Health and our alliance of over 5,000 physicians and 18 hospitals believe the Bay Area can dramatically reduce its health inequities through these processes. And we don’t just talk about diversity—we’re building systems and initiatives to reach underserved populations.
Our alliance offers:
- Multilingual doctors who speak more than 60 languages, including Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog
- Centers that focus on culturally appropriate care, including UCSF Health’s Asian Heart and Vascular Center, Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, and Child and Adolescent Gender Center Clinic
- Programs that encourage youth from underrepresented groups to consider health careers at Alameda Health System
We also have award-winning diversity programs. Dignity Health received the NAACP’s highest grade in its 2015 Opportunity & Diversity Report Card. And UCSF Health, John Muir Health, and Marin General Hospital have all been recognized as “Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign.
Jones, C. (2018, January 1). Young, gay and living on the street: LGBT youth face increased odds of homelessness. EdSource. Retrieved from https://edsource.org/2018/young-gay-and-living-on-the-street-lgbt-youth-face-increased-odds-of-homelessness/591851
Newport, F., Gates, G. (2015, March 20). San Francisco metro area ranks highest in LGBT percentage. Gallup. Retrieved from http://news.gallup.com/poll/182051/san-francisco-metro-area-ranks-highest-lgbt-percentage.aspx
San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership (2016). San Francisco community health needs assessment 2016. Retrieved from https://www.sfdph.org/dph/hc/HCAgen/HCAgen2016/May%2017/2016CHNA-2.pdf
Silverstein, J. (2015, April 13). Genes don’t cause racial-health disparities, society does. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/genes-dont-cause-racial-health-disparities-society-does/389637/
The black-white disparity in pregnancy-related mortality from 5 conditions: differences in prevalence and case-fatality rates (2007, February). American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1781382/