H1N1 hospitalization rates higher for non-whites

African-Americans and Hispanics were about twice as likely as whites to be hospitalized for H1N1 during the 2009-10 flu season, according to a new report, Fighting Flu Fatigue, from the non-profit Trust for America's Health. Both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination rates were lower for African-Americans and Hispanics than for whites.

Here are some of the report's findings:

  • 30 African-Americans were hospitalized per 100,000 people compared with 16 per 100,000 for whites.
  • H1N1 vaccination rates were 12 percent lower for Hispanics and 10 percent lower for African-American adults than whites.
  • Seasonable flu vaccination rates were 22 percent lower for Hispanic adults and 17 percent lower for African-American adults than their white counterparts.

To fight the flu and boost vaccination rates, the report suggests a launching campaign to educate about the need for flu shots and making a concerted effort to reach minority groups with targeted, culturally appropriate messages to encourage vaccinations, as well as countering negative beliefs and misinformation.

The report notes that while the response to the H1N1 outbreak showed that the country was better prepared to respond to a pandemic than it had been a few years earlier, the outbreak revealed continuing challenges to public health preparedness.

One key variable that dampened the response to H1N1 was that in the midst of the outbreak, budget cuts shrank local health departments by 23,000 jobs. Shortened work weeks for 13,000 local health departments also slowed the response.

To learn more:
- read the report
- here's the press release from the Trust for America's Health

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