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Poverty, Diet, Access Constrain Minority Health

Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes – leading causes of death among minorities – are often linked to the processed and fast foods that permeate Western diets.

Among minority and immigrant populations are significant numbers who are poor. These individuals are more likely to live in food deserts where, in urban settings, a third of the population is more than a mile from a supermarket, or, in rural areas, the closest grocery store is at least ten miles away. If they lack transportation to access the fresh, healthy and affordable food available beyond their neighborhoods, minorities and immigrants end up shopping at convenience stores and fast food outlets. At these establishments, healthy options are overwhelmed by cheaper processed foods saturated with fat, salt and sugar.

People living in low-income communities also often lack access to quality medical care, in part because they do not have health insurance. Often, when they see health care providers, their health conditions have worsened due to sustained lack of medical attention. They can be further disadvantaged because they see providers in emergency settings that are not intended for maintenance care, are not well-attuned to the particularities of minority health and lack foreign language skills for effective health communication.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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