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February Health Equity Link


Black History Month

February is Black History Month and is the time when we, as a nation, collectively honor the tremendous contributions, achievements and significant role African Americans have had throughout U.S. history.

The Office of Minority Health (OMH) joins fellow Offices of Minority Health at HHS and healthcare professionals around the nation to highlight the impacts of COVID-19 on minorities, especially African Americans, with underlying health conditions such as uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension).

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African American men and women have high blood pressure. Additionally, in a recent sample conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), results showed that the most reported underlying medical condition among hospitalized adults suffering from COVID-19 was hypertension.

This month, OMH will focus its efforts on providing the African American community with accurate information from trusted minority healthcare professionals and experts that will assist in increasing vaccine confidence and address the disproportionate rate COVID-19 is having on African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension.

Visit our Black History Month Toolkit webpage for more information, downloadable materials, events and health resources.

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American Heart Month

Each February, we observe American Heart Month to remind us to take care of our hearts and adopt healthy habits that will help prevent heart disease. This year, heart health is even more important because of the increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), more than 800,000 people die from cardiovascular disease every year in the United States and about 1 in 9 American adults are diagnosed with heart disease.

To help spread awareness of heart health disparities that affect African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority groups, OMH joins NLHBI and The Heart Truth in their #OurHearts initiative to encourage and motive everyone to adopt heart-healthy behaviors.

You can also help spread awareness of heart disease this month by wearing red on National Wear Red Day on February 5 and by downloading NHLBI’s toolkit about heart health to share among your friends and family.

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World Cancer Day – February 4

World Cancer Day (February 4) is a global observance used to raise awareness, improve education, and work together towards eliminating preventable cancer deaths and providing treatment and care that is equal and accessible for all.

This year’s theme, ‘I Am and I Will’, is about everyone being committed to reducing the impact of cancer and the number of premature cancer deaths by one-third by 2030.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States, African Americans have higher death rates than any other racial and ethnic minority groups for many cancer types. Cancer disparities have many contributing factors, including social determinants of health, behavior, family history, and genetics—all of which can have a profound impact on health, including levels of risk and outcomes.

Many forms of cancer are preventable by practicing healthy habits and by getting the recommended cancer screening tests for early detection and treatment. Visit www.worldcancerday.org to learn more about the observance and to downloadable materials to help spread the word.

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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – February 7

On February 7, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed to increase awareness and promote the work being done to reduce HIV in African American communities.

According to the CDC, 43 percent of all new HIV diagnoses are among African Americans and 59 percent of new HIV diagnoses are among African American women.

As part of the national Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative, the CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign aims to empower communities, partners, and healthcare providers to reduce HIV stigma and promote prevention, testing, and treatment among all people in the United States. Additionally, to help with HIV prevention, the Ready, Set, PrEP program, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications for free to individuals who qualify.

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Rare Disease Day – February 28

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February. The global observance focuses on raising awareness about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives. This year’s call to action is ‘Equity for People Living with a Rare Disease,’ so that they may have equal opportunities to realize their potential for participation in family, work and social life.

There are over 6,000 rare diseases identified around the world. According to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the NIH, an estimated 30 million people in the United States are affected by rare diseases and only 5 percent of rare diseases have approved treatments.

Due to the rarity of each disease and scattered populations, expertise and information are limited. As a result, in healthcare systems designed for common diseases, patients face inequities in accessing diagnosis, care and treatments.

To learn more about the observance and help raise awareness to achieve equitable social inclusion for people living with a rare disease, visit www.rarediseaseday.org.

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Knowledge Center

Maintaining good heart health is an important factor for African American wellbeing. In support of Black History Month and American Heart Month, the OMH Knowledge Center online catalog provides a targeted list of articles, strategies and programs designed to reduce hypertension and cardiovascular diseases in African Americans. To read these publications, search the online library catalog here.

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