Focus on Minority Health Census data for 2000 show that of the 281.4 million people residing in the United States, about 25% belong to minority populations. While this sector continues to grow, scientists from minority backgrounds constitute a disproportionately small percentage of their profession. In speech-language pathology and audiology, African American, American Indian, Hispanic, ... Features
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Features  |   March 01, 2003
Focus on Minority Health
Author Notes
  • Kay Johnson Graham, is the equal employment opportunity officer and the minority outreach coordinator for NIDCD and the National Institute of Nursing Research. She advises scientists, students, faculty, and community members on establishing partnerships to enhance the participation of minorities in science and is a member of several community and educational outreach efforts. Contact her by e-mail at johnsonk@ms.nidcd.nih.gov.
    Kay Johnson Graham, is the equal employment opportunity officer and the minority outreach coordinator for NIDCD and the National Institute of Nursing Research. She advises scientists, students, faculty, and community members on establishing partnerships to enhance the participation of minorities in science and is a member of several community and educational outreach efforts. Contact her by e-mail at johnsonk@ms.nidcd.nih.gov.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Features
Features   |   March 01, 2003
Focus on Minority Health
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 10-11. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR2.08042003.10
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 10-11. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR2.08042003.10
Census data for 2000 show that of the 281.4 million people residing in the United States, about 25% belong to minority populations. While this sector continues to grow, scientists from minority backgrounds constitute a disproportionately small percentage of their profession. In speech-language pathology and audiology, African American, American Indian, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islanders received about 15% of the doctoral degrees awarded in these disciplines (Doctorate Recipients from the United States Universities: Summary Report, 1998).
Recruiting and retaining under-represented minority scientists is thus an important priority, especially in the health professions. In human communication health, for example, there are research endeavors that should be pursued to address areas that have a disproportionate impact upon minority and disadvantaged individuals and communities.
There is also a great need to focus on the disparities that exist in health among racial and ethnic groups as well as among populations with low socioeconomic status. Further research and research training initiatives are needed to explore current data, develop additional data, and create interventions and treatments that will ensure healthier outcomes for all populations.
NIDCD
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health, has supported scientific research and research training that has made remarkable contributions to our knowledge about human communication and its disorders. The NIDCD also has taken an active interest in understanding why some diseases and disorders disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. Some of its activities are highlighted below.
Economic and Social Realities of Communication Differences and Disorders Working Group. Many children of racial and ethnic backgrounds are often misdiagnosed as having a language impairment because culturally-appropriate language assessment instruments or procedures are unavailable. In addition, other children from multicultural populations who have genuine language disorders and who are in need of remediation may go unrecognized.
Language Difference or Language Disorder? Harry Seymour of the University of Massachusetts and another working group panelist have received support from NIDCD to develop ways to differentiate between communication difference and communication disorder in African American children. A similar project is being conducted by Aquiles Iglesias at Temple University that will benefit Hispanic children. Recent research conducted at San Francisco General Hospital shows that adults who have low literacy competency and are challenged by medical instructions have poorer adherence to taking medicine and following directions. Many of these individuals come from disadvantaged and minority populations.
Otitis Media in Native Americans. NIDCD-supported research, conducted by Kathleen Daly at the University of Minnesota, examines differences in the rate of incidence of otitis media found in Native American tribes. Future studies are needed to understand the epidemiology of otitis media and hearing loss among Native American children from birth to age 2 in order to accurately identify risk factors.
Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection and Hearing Loss. Research work conducted by Karen Fowler at the University of Alabama shows that cytomegalovirus (CMV) causes hearing loss in some children infected by the virus during birth. While the majority of these children had no clinically apparent infection at birth and were classified as having asymptomatic congenital CMV infection, some did show symptoms. Sensorineural hearing loss and sometimes delayed onset of hearing impairment were present. Since most of the infants with congenital CMV infection are without symptoms at birth, these children are unlikely to be identified in newborn screening tests as being at risk for sensorineural hearing loss.
Prevalence of Hearing Loss and Problems With Balance in the Adult U.S. Population and for Groups Based on Race/Ethnicity or Economic Disadvantage. An estimated 28 million people in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing, and 6 million report having problems with balance or dizziness lasting three months or longer. Presbycusis, the loss of hearing associated with aging, affects about 30% of adults 65 years of age and older. Chronic imbalance/dizziness has been reported in 9% of seniors. Although health disparities among adults with hearing loss (and chronic balance problems) are suspected, there are no currently available data.
Recruit and Retain Individuals From Underrepresented Groups for Careers in Research in Human Communication Through In-Depth Experiences at the NIDCD. In collaboration with the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the NIDCD developed the innovative “NIDCD Partnership Program.” Launched in 1994, the program was developed to increase and create opportunities in biomedical and behavioral research for minorities, persons with disabilities, and disadvantaged students.
Since the program’s inception, more than 90 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and administrators have participated. Students pursue internships in the NIDCD intramural research laboratories, where they are matched with senior scientists who expose them to cutting-edge research in human communication. Many of the alumni students are pursuing research careers in the sciences, and several have chosen human communication as their field of study. This program not only provides research training opportunities for students in NIDCD laboratories, but also provides career development for faculty and administrators at the various academic centers throughout the country.
A partnership between Howard University and the NIDCD is being forged. Doctoral students pursuing terminal degrees in the sciences will participate in research in the NIDCD laboratories, while receiving credit toward their degrees. Also, a seminar and lecture series is being developed to stimulate scientific interest and the potential for collaboration among the scientists.
But there’s still more to be done. There are more clinical and basic research questions still unanswered. Critical clinical and basic research issues affecting racial and ethnic minorities span the entire range of specialty areas in the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology. Efforts to recruit and retain a scientific workforce reflecting the nation’s diversity is still a work in progress.
For more information on NIDCD programs, research, and research training opportunities, visit the NIDCD Web site at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/.
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March 2003
Volume 8, Issue 4