Mississippi ranks last, or close to last, in almost every leading health outcome. In Mississippi and nationwide, these health disparities are significantly worse for those who have systematically faced obstacles to health due to their socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, geographic location, and other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.
The result is a disproportionate burden of disease and illness that is borne by racial and ethnic minority populations and the rural and urban poor. Health disparities not only affect the groups facing health inequities, but limit overall improvements in quality of care, the health status for the broader population, and results in unnecessary costs.
Healthy People 2030 defines health equity as The attainment of the highest level of health for all people.
Health Disparity Data
In 1985, the Heckler Report was released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) noting the health disparities among ethnic and racial minorities in the United States. The MSDH Office of Policy Evaluation's Health Equity team focuses on ensuring that programs are addressing the health needs of Mississippi's minority population and the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population. In 2015, the Mississippi State Department of Health released its first State of the State: Annual Mississippi Health Disparities and Inequalities Report to provide MSDH program areas, hospitals, and community-based organizations with a better profile of the health issues of the state's citizens. Many of Mississippi's poor health outcomes are due to the social determinants of health. In Mississippi, those without a high school diploma and earn less than $15,000 a year have the least favorable health outcomes, with minority and LEP populations having worse health outcomes.
Cultural Competence Training
In 2000, the HHS Office of Minority Health developed the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (The National CLAS Standards). The National CLAS Standards covers 1) governance, leadership, and workforce, 2) communication and language assistance, and 3) engagement, continuous improvement, and accountability in health and human services. The guiding principle of the National CLAS Standard is to:
"Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs."
The Health Equity department understands that the growing diversity of Mississippi requires not only for MSDH's staff to be well trained, but staff in other agencies and organizations as well. In 2016, the MSDH became licensed to offer the Cross Cultural Health Care Program (CCHCP) Cultural Competence Training. The CCHCP has 23 years of experience providing cultural competency training, community and organizational needs assessments, and consulting for a wide range of health and social service institutions around the country. For more information on cultural competency training, contact the MSDH Health Equity team.
Community Interpreter Training
The most recent data available has estimated that 25 million limited English proficient (LEP) persons live in the United States. In Mississippi the LEP population accounts for 35,800 persons with some areas of the state more concentrated than others. The top five English language learners in Mississippi are those who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese, and Gujarati.
Limited English proficiency can greatly affect access to care. Being limited English proficient affects a person the moment he or she walks into a health care setting. Tasks such as filling out a patient intake form, billing and payment process, and following medication can be overwhelming tasks. Medical interpreters are an essential part of the medical team dealing with those who are limited English proficient. Medical interpreters not only provided clear communication between the patient and provider, they relieve family members and friends from the burden of providing complex health information, and ensure that those who have limited English proficiency receive the highest quality of care.
The Health Equity department is Cross Cultural Communications (CCC)-licensed to provide 48-hour Community Interpreter and Medical Terminology trainings in Mississippi. The MSDH is the only licensed site in the state that provides the 40-hour requisite for national certification. The CCC is the only international training agency in the United States for professional interpreting and cultural competence, with over 130 licensed trainers in 28 U.S. states, and six other countries. For information about medical interpreter training, contact the MSDH Health Equity team.
Hepatitis B Screenings for the Gulf Coast
The MSDH Health Equity team, along with local partners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is providing culturally appropriate Hepatitis B education, screening, and treatment referral for the 8,500 Vietnamese-Americans in the region. An estimated 1 in 12 Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is living with hepatitis B.