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CDC: Racial, ethnic groups shoulder more negative health effects from unmet needs

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows that racial or ethnic groups often see negative health effects because of unmet social and economic needs. Officials say understanding how these needs affect health could lead to policy solutions and better care.

Dr. Karen Hacker, who directs the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said they surveyed adults across the U.S. and zeroed in on five specific needs, like social connections and food security.

“A lot of this has to do with recognizing that there are external challenges that people may be facing– particularly people in low income communities, but also people who are of varying races,” said Hacker. “The disparities that we see throughout this country — just about every single chronic disease that we are involved with — unfortunately demonstrate that often racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately burdened.”

In addition to this report’s findings at the national level, a new random survey of 42 states, including Arizona, will help produce more state-specific data at the individual level.

“We now have two years of data for the social determinants of health,” Hacker said, “and we just released the first tranche of data.”

While researchers produce more state-specific data, Hacker said communities and lawmakers should step in.

“This really has to be a collaborative effort,” she said. “All of these narrative partners are absolutely critical to being able to create that environment that really supports health.”

For their conversations to produce diverse ideas, ASU professor Zach Cordell said it’s important to ensure diverse points of view contribute.

“It's important not just to have them at the table,” he added, “but to tell them and help them understand that they belong at that table and that their experiences can inform what we need to do moving forward.”

Cordell said the report supports a fresher perspective on how healthcare professionals can better know – and better serve – their communities.

“In my classes,” he explained, “I focus on saying, ‘Is your way the right way? Or is it just the way that you've done it?’”

It’s a holistic look at care that Cordell hopes will help create actionable steps to dismantle barriers to better health outcomes that the study identifies.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.