How To Improve Health Disparities In Minority Communities

National Minority Health Month,  Dr. Marion Colas-Lacombe shares her views on improving health disparities in minority communities

MIAMI – April is Minority Health Month! Healthier communities mean lower health care costs, which translate into a stronger economy and a more productive, competitive America.

By drawing attention to the factors that help minority populations achieve wellness, we are also building a stronger foundation for our nation’s increasingly diverse populations to prosper for generations to come

How To Improve Health Disparities In Minority Communities with Dr. Marion Colas-Lacombe
Dr. Marion Colas-Lacombe

South Florida Caribbean News caught up with Dr. Marion Colas-Lacombe, MD, MPH to talk about ways to address the health disparities among our communities of color.

Q: What is the best advice you have for someone who is looking to educate themselves on the health disparities prevalent among their race?

A: I would direct them to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report(MMWR) published by the CDC.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is a weekly epidemiological digest for the United States published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the main vehicle for publishing public health information and recommendations that have been received by the CDC from state health departments.

Material published in the report is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission – view here  

Additionally, I would recommend that every individual establish care with a primary care provider after leaving the care of his/her pediatrician even if he/she is perfectly healthy.

Maintaining this relationship with our providers allows us to stay educated, receive current medical advice, prevent acquisition of disease, treat conditions early, and continue the behaviors and attitudes that are going to keep us healthy.

In my experience, when I see patients who see their primary care providers routinely, have a balanced diet, stay physically active, and practice safe sex, they are much less likely to have serious preventable medical issues and they are usually happier individuals.

Q: What are some preventative measures for dealing with hereditary health issues within our community?

A. Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition.

The most powerful medicine that any of us consume on a daily basis is the food that we put in our bodies. If certain medical conditions run in your family, you want to do everything possible to minimize the chances of you developing that condition and/or delay the development of that condition.

As an example, as a nation, we consume refined sugar and simple carbohydrates in excessive amounts which puts our bodies in a constant state of inflammation making it more difficult for our bodies to fight disease and stay healthy.

Elimination of processed food is a great way to start making changes in our diets. If something has artificial colors or ingredients in it, don’t eat it.

If you wouldn’t feed something to your baby, then don’t eat it yourself. Portion control is another effective way to optimize nutritional balance. We need to eat healthily to live healthily.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise-

Exercising helps us metabolize the food that we do eat. It also helps our metabolic processes run more efficiently.

The more muscle we build, the more calories we will burn. Exercising is a fantastic way to optimize our cardiovascular health which is so important especially for women who are dying from heart disease at rates that are now rivaling that of men.

Ladies, we must take care of our hearts and ourselves. The fact of the matter is that no one else is going to do it for us.

Q: In your professional opinion, do you feel that more access to health care, medicine and insurance will help to diminish the effects of these health risks in minority communities?

A: Yes, it will provide us with the guidance, context, and resources to make the changes that we must make to improve our health as a community and stay healthy.

In the African-American community 40% of women are more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Hispanic whites.

As a woman of color, how important is it for you to get your breasts examined? How often should you be checked for cancer? And at what age should you start checking for breast cancer?

The reason why we are more likely to die from breast cancer is because it is not detected at early stages and once detected it is not managed aggressively.

For women, the breasts should be examined once a year by your provider (which is considered a Clinical Breast Exam) and once a month by yourself after the menstrual cycle ends (which is considered a Self-Breast Exam).

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that the clinical breast exams start at age 20 because so few breast cancers are diagnosed before this age.

I perform a clinical breast exam on my patients when they first present to me for an annual wellness visit to teach and reinforce self-breast awareness in my patients (again in the spirit of education, exposure, consistency, and reinforcement) 

Q: As a community, what are some initiatives that we should focus on? Do you feel the success of overcoming one disparity, such as HIV, will domino effect and help eradicate another disparity within minorities?

A: Obesity. It affects every aspect of our health care. As an OB/GYN, I see the effects that it has on women on a daily basis. I don’t think that we often realize that our irregular periods, infertility, fibroids, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, high risk pregnancies, and heart disease are all directly linked to our body mass indexes.

Yes, I do feel that the success in improving the disparity of HIV within minority communities should also facilitate the improvement in the other disparities that exist in minority communities. It starts with education, exposure to information and resources, and constant repetition, reiteration, reinforcement, and community support.

To promote and maintain change, efforts need to be coordinated and consistent. HIV prevention became a pervasive, constant, and unrelenting mantra within minority communities which I think was an essential element of its success.

Another aspect that I think was essential at improving the HIV disparity in minority communities was the emphasis on the value of an individual’s health. Your health is priceless. It is your most valuable asset.

I believe that when people truly understand and believe that their health and well-being, and quality of life are just as important as anybody else’s, it facilitates the changes in attitudes and behaviors that we need to strengthen ourselves and our communities.

We have already seen it with HIV awareness and prevention initiatives, and it follows, that if we believe that our health is worth it, and if we believe that we are worth it, and if we believe that our community is worth it, then future initiatives will be just as effective with other aspects of our community health as well.

Dr. Marion Colas-Lacombe

Dr. Marion Colas-Lacombe, affectionately known as Dr. Lacombe was born and raised in Miami surrounded by the international influence that defines South Florida.

After graduating from Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School, she attended the George Washington University in Washington, DC where she received her Bachelor’s degree, her medical degree, and her master’s degree in Public Health which has heavily influenced her affinity for preventative healthcare and community medicine.

Dr. Lacombe’s residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Jackson Memorial Hospital allowed her to further develop and integrate the administration of culturally sensitive health care to the patients in her community.

For Dr. Lacombe, being a woman and a mother is a powerful and humbling experience and it is her purpose and her passion to put women and their healthcare as her first priority in the practice of medicine.

10th annual Dr. Nelson Adams Walk A Mile With A Child

Set for Saturday, April 22,2017 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. The walk will begin at Gibson Park(401 NW 12th Street, and go through historic Overtown.

Registration begins at 8am. Register here

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