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Building Trust Key to Reducing Health Gaps in IA

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Nationally, the American Heart Association says it plans to raise $230 million to help achieve health equity. (Adobe Stock)
Nationally, the American Heart Association says it plans to raise $230 million to help achieve health equity. (Adobe Stock)
January 27, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa - Health disparities in the United States are getting more attention, between the pandemic and last year's social-justice protests. In Iowa, certain barriers are being addressed, including mistrust of health agencies and providers.

State health officials have said Iowa mirrors national data for people of color experiencing negative health outcomes. They have noted that the state's Black population has the highest rate of mortality in almost every cause of death, not including suicide.

Izaah Knox, executive director of Urban Dreams, a statewide nonprofit that helps reduce racial barriers, said he feels that, in terms of outreach, the health-care industry has lacked a strong presence in marginalized neighborhoods.

"I think the biggest thing," he said, "is that too many times organizations, hospitals - or anybody that all of a sudden wants to reach out - only comes out every once in a while, and if it's of benefit to them. "

He said that's why his group is partnering with others, such as the American Heart Association, to maintain a consistent presence. The Heart Association is advocating for increased state funding for a program to help marginalized Iowans get healthier foods at a lower cost. The group has said expansion of tele-health is another priority in closing these gaps.

Nalo Johnson, division director of health promotion at the Iowa Department of Public Health, agreed that improved engagement can help make these communities more resilient, especially during public-health emergencies. She said the state is trying to ramp up support for lower-level agencies in this area.

"Providing resources around translation; providing connections from what we are hearing or seeing at the federal level, in terms of resources or information," she said.

Through grant opportunities, the department also is trying to reduce disparities for diseases such as hypertension. Community groups have said policymakers need to bolster infrastructure in poorer neighborhoods, so residents can be more mobile and improve their physical health. On its website, the American Heart Association has more information on efforts to end structural racism and other initiatives to improve health outcomes in states such as Iowa.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Smoking Prevention, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA