Heart disease, Michigan's number one killer of African-Americans, causes more deaths than the next five leading disease indicators combined; cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality and violence. Approximately 35% of African American females are at risk for heart disease compared to 25% of Caucasians. Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States. Although African Americans comprise only 14% of the population they account for approximately 19% of all people with diabetes. However, one-third of those affected do not even realize they have the disease. In the Latino population, 8% of individuals aged twenty years or older have diabetes. The rate is even higher for Native American adults with 15% of the population having diabetes. Diabetes is also the fifth leading cause of death among Asian or Pacific Islander Americans ages 45 to 64. It is vital that individuals from ethnic and racial populations are educated regarding the prevention of chronic diseases.
Without A Vision The People Perish (WAV) whose vision is, “a society in which racial and ethnic populations are capable of experiencing excellence in health, wellness, wholeness and fulfillment” sponsored the inaugural meeting of the Michigan Minority Health Coalition (MMHC) on December 16th at the Henry Center for Executive Development. The coalition is state-wide initiative designed to lead, coordinate, and support efforts to improve minority health outcomes among racial and ethnic populations. MMHC also supports the work of Michigan's Surgeon General, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the federal initiative Healthy People 2010. The coalition proposes to: 1) Identify issues pertinent to MMHC members and the minority communities, 2) develop action steps and a task force to improve health outcomes of Michigan's minority populations and 3) develop and maintain a communication network to engage and alert organizations involved in minority health issues of statewide actions and initiatives that impact racial and ethnic populations.
The MMHC meeting was attended by representatives from associations concerned with health issues for African Americans, Arab-Chaldeans, Asian Pacific Islanders, Latinos and various immigrant populations. Organizations represented included Governor Granholm’s office, Michigan’s Office of the Surgeon General, Michigan’s Office of Minority Health, GlaxoSmithKline, Representative Michael Murphy’s office, the American Heart Association, Michigan State University and the Lansing AIDS Network among others. Participants came from Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon and other surrounding communities.
During the event, Mary Washington, Section Manager of the Health Disparities Reduction Program Unit delivered a presentation informing attendees of Michigan’s response and programs aimed at reducing health disparities. Dr. Othelia W. Pryor, WAV Executive Director, explained the purpose of MMHC and encouraged participants not to be intimidated by the immensity of the problem. The recommendations posed by the participants will be utilized as the MMHC task force convenes to further develop the organizational action plan for 2006. If you or your organization is involved in issues pertaining to minority health, you may contact Without a Vision the People Perish at P.O. Box 4654, East Lansing, MI 48826 or by email at
Publisher’s Note: This was one of the most informative and productive local group presentations that I have been to since I started the newspaper. It was impressive and I suggest that those who are involved in a health group to contact Dr. Pryor to work on collaborative projects.