Brain Injury Awareness Month - Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership

Brain Injury Awareness Month

As a new initiative, the Partnership will share monthly updates on a variety of topics related to health, health care and health disparities. We will begin by recognizing the month of March: Brain Injury Awareness Month. Below, Sylvia Gafford-Alexander, MSW, co-chair of the Partnership’s Consumer Initiatives Committee, provides us with some insight into the often overlooked health disparities associated with brain injury. I hope you find her words informative and inspiring.

Stacey L. Brown  

Brain Injury Awareness Month 

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Each year in the United States more than 50,000 people succumb to injuries sustained as a result of a traumatic brain injury; another 85,000 sustain long term disabilities.  In Connecticut, several thousand of such injuries are reported each year.

The month of March offers an excellent opportunity to focus on the prevalence and nature of health disparities among people with disabilities, especially those with brain injuries.

Observed the HHS Advisory Committee on Minority Health:

Aside from the public health issues that most racial/ethnic minorities face, minorities with disabilities experience additional disparities in health, prejudice, discrimination, economic barriers, and difficulties accessing care as a result of their disability, in effect, they face a “double burden.”

Numerous studies employing various methods support the findings of the Advisory Committee.  For example, findings by various groups, including researchers, reveal:

  • Reduced utilization of medical services by people with disabilities, especially among African Americans and Latinos;
  • African Americans and Latinos who sustain brain injuries were/are less likely to be insured; the uninsured have higher mortality rates;
  • Blacks and Asians with severe brain injuries have higher mortality rates than Whites with similar injuries;
  • Compared to Whites, Blacks and Latinos are less likely to be discharged home following hospitalization for treatment of a brain injury;
  • Blacks lose more income post injury than whites;
  • Minorities experience statistically significant worse long term outcomes in post-TBI standards of living, engagement in leisure activities, and return to work or school;
  • Minorities in general, Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans, and Asians are 2.17 times more likely to be unemployed 1 year post brain injury; and
  • Access differences, possible workup biases, treatment biases, and failure to provide culturally responsive treatment strategies, including language access to patients in the emergency room and rehabilitation exists in the service system and contributes to ongoing health disparities.

Brain injury is an invisible disability.   However, there are behavioral, emotional, and cognitive impairments that often lead to over–representation of persons with brain injuries among populations in total institutions – prisons and long term mental health facilities.  As the HHS Committee observed, people with brain injuries face a “double burden.”  This month, vow to learn more about health disparities among people with brain injuries. Use what you learn to advocate for comprehensive non-able-ism strategies that will reduce/eliminate health disparities among all populations!

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014

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