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In April, we commemorate National Minority Health Month to raise awareness about the health disparities that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic
minorities, and to highlight prevention as a key strategy for achieving health equity.
Over the past several decades, our nation has made vast improvements in scientific knowledge, public health and health care. And yet, the health status of
racial and ethnic minorities still lags behind that of the general population on many fronts. Minorities are far more likely to suffer from chronic
conditions and diseases, like diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. But we know the power that prevention holds for communities of color and for our
nation as a whole.
Today, we have the opportunity to make unprecedented progress towards closing the gap in health care services and health outcomes for all Americans. The
Office of Minority Health is leading the implementation of the first-ever U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, and
coordinating the implementation of a national cross-sector, partnership-based, multi-level, and community-driven effort to address health disparities - the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA). Guided by the HHS Disparities Action
Plan, the Department promotes integrated approaches, evidence-based programs and promising practices to reduce disparities and advance health equity,
including community-based prevention programs, promoting the uptake of preventive services and prioritizing healthy living.
Our efforts are empowered by the knowledge that prevention will help change the current trends that result in minorities too often living sicker and dying
younger. Prevention reduces health disparities through focusing on the action we all must take to achieve health equity — an understanding this
Administration has had since the beginning of its efforts to transform our health care system. The HHS Disparities Action Plan helps hold us accountable to
this focus, and the NPA’s National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity serves as both documentation of the actions envisioned by communities,
experts, and stakeholders as necessary to effectively combat health disparities, and the commitment required of all, including the public and private
By expanding access to coverage and quality health care through the Affordable Care Act, we can transform health care and public health. Through
educational campaigns like the Million Hearts Initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and
strokes, we advance the health and well-being of the American people as we support activities to improve healthy lifestyles. Through more investment in community health centers – where almost two-thirds of all patients
treated are minorities – and the efforts of those organizations to promote prevention in their communities, we help to strengthen the nation’s health and
human services infrastructure and workforce. Through new tools like
mobile applications to help women of color
gain access to information on cancer screenings and investments in community-based participatory research, we advance scientific knowledge and innovation.
HHS will remain accountable to achieving the goals of the Disparities Action Plan and monitoring progress towards reducing health disparities.
And there is more to come. The Affordable Care Act has opened up the doors to health coverage for millions of Americans. The health care law specifically
addresses the needs of minority populations and other underserved groups – who are more likely to be without health insurance or a regular primary care
provider – by investing in prevention, and making health care coverage affordable and accessible. Tens of millions of previously insured Americans have had
their private coverage strengthened and millions of previously uninsured Americans are newly covered with the opportunity to access important preventive
services, like check-ups, screenings and vaccinations, without the worry of co-pays or other cost-sharing.
Throughout the month of April, the Office of Minority Health will join its federal, state, tribal and local partners across the country in calling for a
renewed commitment to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity. Across the country and in the U.S. territories, we are spreading the word
that “prevention is power,” to inspire everyone to talk about how we can focus on keeping our families and communities healthy. We invite you to join us
during National Minority Health Month in taking action for health equity. Share your work with us, and help us continue to build momentum to achieve our
goal of a nation free of disparities in health and health care.
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health in the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Minority Health develops and coordinates Federal health policy that addresses minority health concerns and ensures that Federal, State and local health programs take into account the needs of disadvantaged, racial and ethnic populations.
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