SUNY Potsdam Researchers Conduct Study on Health of Minorities in North Country

06.10.10

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

Dr. Bonnar-Kidd and Dr. McCarthy said that Americans face a variety of health disparities, or differences in health status, depending on their income, education, race/ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation. 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 more likely in general to become sick and die early. In addition, Americans of color suffer more illnesses compared to their white counterparts.

In New York State, the SUNY Potsdam professors 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 Keiser 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 grim statistics have increased efforts to address the racial/ethnic health 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.

As a first step toward addressing these health disparities, the 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 St. Lawrence 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 (315) 267-3188.

Founded in 1816, SUNY Potsdam is a four-year liberal arts college nestled on the outskirts of the Adirondack Park. Among the 64 units of The State University of New York system, SUNY Potsdam has the longest history and currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. It is well known for its academically challenging liberal arts and sciences and teacher education programs, as well as its world-renowned Crane School of Music.