Nearly a sixth of adults in NC couldn’t afford to see a doctor

DHHS Health Equity Report demonstrates disparities toward minority groups.

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released its 2018 Health and Equity Report, showing minorities fare worse when it comes to mortality rates, access to health care and infant mortality.

The report, released April 6, shows racial and ethnic health disparities in the state. It is a reflection of America’s Health Rankings report, which ranked North Carolina No. 32 in the nation in overall health status in 2016, saying “health status is directly impacted by the health status of minorities and other underserved populations.”

The report demonstrates the state’s progress toward eliminating these gaps in minority groups, gives data to help organizations and informs people about eliminating these disparities.

“The report provides clear data on health disparities across a variety of conditions and metrics, like breast cancer, infant mortality, heart disease, obesity, the opioid crisis and insurance coverage status,” Cornell Wright, executive director of the N.C. Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, said. “While it details some areas where we have made progress in closing gaps and addressing inequities, it also illustrates how much work we have left to do to build a healthier, more equal state.”

The cost of health care is a hurdle for North Carolina, specifically for minorities. According to the report, 15 percent of adults can’t afford to see a doctor, with Hispanic/Latino at 27 percent, African-Americans at 18 percent and whites at 13 percent. African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino and other racial groups, however, were more likely to have seen a dentist in the past year than their white counterparts.

The report concluded that access to health care, access to healthy foods (23 percent of North Carolinians live in a food desert) and environmental conditions are significant factors to the social determinants of health. Another factor is the socioeconomic status, education, employment, income and disability, which can influence health.

According to the report, African-Americans die of breast cancer at a rate of 28.3, compared to whites at 19.4, American Indians at 20.2, Hispanic/Latinx at 9.9 and Pacific Islanders at 13.2.

The study concluded the state’s total infant death rate is 7.2 per 1,000 live births, more than the nation’s average. American Indians have an infant death rate of 9.0 and the rate among African Americans is 13.0. The study illustrates the significance of the lowering the infant mortality rate, saying improving the well-being of mothers and children can benefit the future of health care. North Carolina has attempted to decrease the rate through its Perinatal Health Strategic Plan, an effort to address medical issues along with social and economic inequalities.

The opioid epidemic continues to predominantly affect white males ages 24-34, though American Indians have a higher rate of opioid overdoses than any other race. Last year, a report showed four of the most addicted cities in U.S. are in North Carolina, with Wilmington ranking first.

DHHS has recently announced a call for applications for community projects to combat the opioid crisis as a part of the N.C. Opioid Action Plan.

“These grants will help local communities work together to turn the tide of the opioid crisis through treatment and recovery assistance,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said. “We look forward to collaborating with communities around the state to accomplish the vision set forth in the N.C. Opioid Action Plan.”