SUNY Potsdam faculty studying health of minorities in North Country
Monday, June 14, 2010 - 8:59 am

POTSDAM -- Two SUNY Potsdam faculty members are conducting a study to examine the health of the North Country’s minority populations.

Dr. Kelly K. Bonnar-Kidd and Dr. Maureen A. McCarthy of the college’s Community Health Department are surveying St. Lawrence County residents in an effort to determine whether there are disparities in health between people of different races and ethnicities, and if so, what factors may produce them.

Dr. McCarthy, who is an associate professor and chair of the Community Health Department, and Dr. Bonnar-Kidd, an assistant professor, hope to obtain data that will ultimately lead to a countywide minority health initiative.

The researchers said that national trends indicate that St. Lawrence County’s minority community is likely at a disadvantage when it comes to health.

Bonnar-Kidd and McCarthy said that a variety of differences in health status among Americans depend on income, education, race or ethnicity, age, gender and sexual orientation. They said that in the U.S., more than in any other developed nation, health disparities pose a significant problem, especially those resulting from differences in income and race/ethnicity. For example, those living in poverty are generally more likely to become sick and die early. In addition, Americans of color suffer more illnesses compared to their white counterparts.

In New York State, the reserarchers said, African-Americans die more often from AIDS, asthma, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and homicide than other racial/ethnic groups and are also more likely to suffer infant and maternal mortality. According to a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation study, 24 percent of Hispanics and 21 percent of blacks living in New York State do not have health insurance, compared to 10 percent of whites. According to the Rural Health Center, people of color who live in rural areas are at a greater risk for disparities in health compared to minorities living in urban areas.

These statistics have increased efforts to address these disparities nationwide. However, according to the state Department of Health, while numerous social programs exist in St. Lawrence County, none are aimed at addressing the health status of the area’s minority population.

This study will examine the health status of people in the county, the types of health-related resources county residents use, and residents’ perceptions of racism. The results of the study will be used to plan strategies to address health disparities in the county via a new minority health initiative.

To participate in the survey, St. Lawrence County residents can go to the St. Lawrence County Minority Health Initiative Project at https://sites.google.com/site/slcmhp/home. Residents can also call the researchers for a paper copy of the survey, at 267-3188.