Health disparities in Arkansas and the importance of preventive care

by Sheldon Riklon ([email protected]) 409 views 

April marks Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about racial and ethnic health disparities faced across the United States. Arkansas is home to many diverse communities, and unfortunately, some groups still experience worse health outcomes than others.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, non-White communities in the state face higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). Factors such as socioeconomic status, limited access to health care facilities, cultural barriers and systemic inequalities contribute to these disparities. However, preventive care and being proactive about staying healthy may help individuals overcome some of these obstacles.

Preventive care includes things like regular check-ups, screenings, vaccines and advice on how to live healthier. By focusing on preventive care, people can find health problems early or stop them from happening in the first place.

Unfortunately, getting health care isn’t always easy due to things like language barriers, limited access to transportation or not having enough doctors where you live, but there are steps you can take to overcome some of these challenges and make sure you get the care you need.

• Know Your Options
Learn about your rights as a patient and where to find affordable health care. Community health centers and nonprofit groups often offer low-cost or free services. Community health workers can also help you figure out how to get the care you need.

• Make Health a Habit
Regular checkups are important for staying healthy. Even if you feel fine, seeing your doctor yearly can help catch problems early. Simple things like eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep and managing stress can also make a big difference.

• Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to speak up if you have trouble getting care. Reach out to advocacy groups, talk to a community health worker or share your concerns with your doctor.

• Use Technology
Many doctors now offer digital health services, where you can talk to them online instead of going to the office. This can be a convenient way to get care, especially if you live far from a doctor.

Getting the care you need can be tough, but as we recognize Minority Health Month, let’s make our health a priority as we work toward a healthier future.

Editor’s note: Dr. Sheldon Riklon is an associate professor in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and a co-investigator with the UAMS Institute for Community Health Innovation. The opinions expressed are those of the author.