Health Information Library

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Health Disparities

Health disparities are health differences between different groups of people. These health differences may include:

  • How many people get certain diseases
  • How severe the diseases are
  • How many people have complications because of the diseases
  • How many people die from a disease
  • Whether people can get health care
  • How many people get screened for a disease

These groups of people may be based on:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Immigrant status
  • Disability
  • Sex or gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Geography
  • Income
  • Level of education

NIH: National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Mental Disorders

What are mental disorders?

Mental disorders (or mental illnesses) are conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day.

What are some types of mental disorders?

There are many different types of mental disorders. Some common ones include:

  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias
  • Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
What causes mental disorders?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as:

  • Your genes and family history
  • Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
  • Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
  • A traumatic brain injury
  • A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Having a serious medical condition like cancer
  • Having few friends, and feeling lonely or isolated

Mental disorders are not caused by character flaws. They have nothing to do with being lazy or weak.

Who is at risk for mental disorders?

Mental disorders are common. More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some time in their life.

How are mental disorders diagnosed?

The steps to getting a diagnosis include:

  • A medical history
  • A physical exam and possibly lab tests, if your provider thinks that other medical conditions could be causing your symptoms
  • A psychological evaluation. You will answer questions about your thinking, feelings, and behaviors.
What are the treatments for mental disorders?

Treatment depends on which mental disorder you have and how serious it is. You and your provider will work on a treatment plan just for you. It usually involves some type of therapy. You may also take medicines. Some people also need social support and education on managing their condition.

In some cases, you may need more intensive treatment. You may need to go to a psychiatric hospital. This could be because your mental illness is severe. Or it could be because you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. In the hospital, you will get counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients.

Occupational Health

Occupational health problems occur at work or because of the kind of work you do. These problems can include:

  • Cuts, fractures (broken bones), and sprains and strains
  • Loss of limbs
  • Repetitive motion disorders
  • Hearing problems caused by exposure to noise
  • Vision problems
  • Illness caused by breathing, touching, or swallowing unsafe substances
  • Illness caused by exposure to radiation
  • Exposure to germs in health care settings

Good job safety and prevention practices can reduce your risk of these problems. Try to stay fit, reduce stress, set up your work area properly, and use the right equipment and gear.

Rural Health Concerns

Around 15% of people in the United States live in rural areas. There are many different reasons why you might choose to live in a rural community. You may want a lower cost of living and a slower pace of life. You may enjoy having access to big, open spaces for recreation. Rural areas are less crowded and can offer more privacy. You may choose a rural area so that you can live near your family and friends.

But there are also challenges to living in a rural area, including when it comes to taking care of your health. Compared to urban areas, rural communities tend to have:

  • Higher poverty rates
  • A higher percentage of older adults, who are more likely to have chronic health problems
  • More residents without health insurance
  • Less access to health care. For example, clinics and hospitals may be far away.
  • Higher rates of certain substance use, such as cigarette smoking and opioid and methamphetamine misuse
  • Higher rates of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and obesity
  • More exposure to environmental hazards, such as chemicals used for farming

There are solutions to deal with these problems. A few examples include:

  • Clinics offering telehealth to provide care for people who live far away from specialists or can't easily get to their providers' offices
  • Local public health agencies working with their communities to promote healthy living. They can provide wellness and exercise classes and start a farmer's market.
  • Local governments adding bike lanes and trails to encourage people to bike and walk
  • Rural schools can offer counseling and mental health services for their students

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