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May is Lupus Awareness Month and on May 20th specifically, health advocates and those directly or indirectly impacted by the disease called lupus will Put On Purple to raise awareness and to support the millions of people who are affected by the disease. For far too long, many Americans have remained unaware that more than 1.5 million people, mostly women, are affected by lupus, and that it is the leading cause of kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease.
How many people know that women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasian women? Sadly, many in the communities most affected, and even those within the medical community, are far less educated about the signs and symptoms of lupus than other equally and less threatening medical conditions.
Lupus has been called "a mystery disease" by researchers and physicians. It is a chronic, autoimmune disease with no cure that can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints and organs. It can even lead to death. It can take up to six years to diagnose if the medical provider is not familiar with its symptoms. There is no cure for lupus but there is hope! With early detection, managed care, reducing stress, and following a healthy diet and exercise plan, individuals with lupus, especially women, can strive for optimal health.
The Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE), along with other national and community-based organizations, is leading a campaign to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of lupus, to improve rates of early detection and early treatment so that patients with this condition have a better chance of living long, healthier lives.
The campaign targets women of color who are at an increased risk for lupus and focuses on educating public health professionals and primary care providers of the signs and symptoms of lupus as well. Individuals experiencing the following symptoms should discuss the possibility of lupus with their health care provider:
This May, DHPE and other partner organizations want to be sure that lupus doesn't take the back seat but rather gets just as much attention as other chronic medical conditions that disproportionately affect women and minority populations.
In the same way that we support awareness and the funding of research for other diseases that devastate families, we need many more community leaders, health care institutions, health educators and medical professionals to rally around this effort to raise funds and support lupus awareness activities. Secondly, there is a need for increased participation in clinical trials from within the African American, Hispanic/Latina, Asian and Native American communities so that we can better understand this disease and more effectively diagnose and develop treatment plans.
Especially in minority communities, it is well known that women are usually the backbone and the glue that keep their families together. So, there is even more at stake if we don't bring lupus to the forefront of community health advocacy. We must all play our part to increase funding and education about lupus, early diagnosis and treatment, and participation in lupus research in support of the people we love.
DHPE calls on women of color and health practitioners to join us on Put on Purple Day on Friday, May 20th, to raise awareness about lupus and in particular how women of color are disproportionately impacted by this disease. Encourage your organization, friends and loved ones to wear purple, in unity with and support of, those living with lupus.
Grab your camera, phone, or tablet and share your own "This is Why I Put On Purple" story with a photo! Be sure to share your organization's Put on Purple participation on social media and use the hashtags: #dhpePOP and #dhpelupus. Whether you are living with lupus, caring for patients, researching a cure or know someone with the disease, it touches everyone. Join DHPE and the lupus community and learn the signs and symptoms of lupus today!
DHPE, a national public health association, was recently funded by the Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, to implement a national lupus health education program. To learn more about lupus, visit www.lupus.org. For more information on the DHPE LEAP Program, visit www.bit.ly/dhpelupus or email LEAP Program Manager Thometta Cozart, MS, MPH at email@example.com.
Steven Owens, MD, MPH, MA is director of Health Equity, Directors of Health Promotion and Education.
The work of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health is rooted in a resounding call sounded more than thirty years ago to address the racial and ethnic health disparities that plague our nation. It was then, in Health, United States 1983 (the annual report card on the nation’s health) that then HHS Secretary Margaret M. Heckler took note of significant disparities that existed between non-Hispanic whites and racial and ethnic minorities despite evidence that showed improvements in the health and longevity of all Americans.
Fueled by this report, in 1984 Secretary Heckler established a task force that within a year developed the Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health (also known as the Heckler Report). Released in 1985, by Secretary Heckler, the report provided a detailed analysis of the major factors that contribute to illness and death among racial and ethnic minority populations and signaled a turning point in understanding the extent to which these groups experienced health disparities. The report also led to the creation of the HHS Office of Minority Health to improve minority health and help eliminate these disparities.
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) continues to prepare the Health, United States report, a consolidation of the most current data on health status and determinants, health care utilization, health care resources, and health care expenditures from federal agency and private entity sources. HHS recently released Health, United States, 2015, which dedicates a portion of its report to trends in health disparities in a Special Feature on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, in commemoration of the recent 30th anniversary of the Heckler Report.
Some of the highlights from the Special Feature include:
These findings are encouraging as they mark important improvements in some health measures for racial and ethnic minority populations and reflect our collective efforts to improve minority health and build a healthier, more equitable nation. However, significant disparities still exist, and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to end health disparities in America. It is my hope that this report will help reinforce our shared commitment to achieve a nation free of disparities in health and health care.
To view the Health, United States, 2015 report and the Special Feature on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/index.htm.
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Get the Facts. Take Precautions. Manage Stress. Be Well.
If you’re pregnant or you’re thinking about starting a family, then you probably know that stress during pregnancy is normal, but that too much stress is not healthy for your pregnancy. The emergence of Zika virus can be an additional unsettling consideration for those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Zika is serious and it can hurt your baby. Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly as well as other severe brain defects. Right now, Zika is not being spread by mosquitoes in the United States, though local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus has been reported in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
Take steps to get the facts about the disease, and how to prevent infection. Managing stress is important for promoting healthier pregnancies, healthier births, and better long-term health outcomes for families.
Here are 6 things that you can do to protect your health and your baby’s health:
If you know someone who is pregnant and worried about Zika, help them learn how they can best protect themselves against possible infection. Help them get the facts – you can start by sharing this blog.
Taking precautions to protect your pregnancy from Zika and managing stress are important ways to help promote a healthier pregnancy, healthier birth, and a better outcome for your family.
Mili K. Patel, JD, MPH is the Public Health Analyst, Division for At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health, and Community Resilience (ABC), Office of Policy and Planning (OPP), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), and Shulamit M. Schweitzer, MHS, is the Senior Management Analyst, GAP Solutions Inc. contractor supporting the Division for At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health, and Community Resilience (ABC), Office of Policy and Planning (OPP), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
Growing up: We all have to do it. Jury duty, income taxes, oil changes, retirement savings — there's a lot to being an adult that no one warns you about. But at some point, you realize that you're in control of your life. You have the skills and smarts to tackle anything that comes your way. All you have to do is take charge.
When it comes to your health, the choices you make in your 20s and 30s can affect your health for the rest of your life. So ask yourself: Do you get your annual well-woman visit? Or see your doctor or nurse before that nagging ache becomes full-blown pain? Are you honest with yourself about your eating habits? Are you getting enough sleep? If you need an excuse to get started, here it is: National Women's Health Week (NWHW) is happening right now — so it's the perfect time to pledge to take charge of your health!
That might sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some simple ways to get started:
This National Women's Health Week, grow up with the best of them. Set goals, make a plan to reach them, and take charge!
Dr. Nancy C. Lee is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Women's Health and Director at the Office on Women's Health
During National Reentry Week, April 24-30, 2016, our nation will focus on the future of individuals who are returning to communities after serving time in federal and state prisons and local jails. This focus will extend across many sectors – employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and transportation – all of which impact health. And all Americans, including those who have been formerly incarcerated and have paid their debt to society, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
President Obama noted during a speech last July on criminal justice reform at the NAACP Annual Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that “virtually all of the people incarcerated in our prisons will eventually, someday, be released.” He also stated, “while the people in our prisons have made some mistakes, and sometimes big mistakes, they are also Americans. And we have to make sure that as they do their time, and pay back their debt to society, that we are increasing the possibility that they can turn their lives around.”
Throughout National Reentry Week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and our federal partners are highlighting efforts and alliances underway that engage sectors other than criminal justice to support the successful reentry of people who have had contact with the criminal justice system. The Justice Department is coordinating reentry events across the country, such as job fairs, mentorship, and events for children of incarcerated parents. Breaking down barriers to successful reentry requires collaboration between education, job placement, housing, transportation, behavioral health, public health, health care, and justice system organizations – all working together to improve the health, well-being, and safety of all individuals.
To achieve this goal, the HHS Office of Minority Health supports successful reentry through community-based efforts to increase access to health services through the HIV/AIDS Health Improvement for the Re-Entry Population and the recently announced Re-Entry Community Linkages funding opportunity. The HHS Office of Minority Health has also strengthened its partnership with DOJ to bridge the opportunity gaps for the justice-involved population – in which racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented – and address the factors that put individuals at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems.
Both HHS and DOJ understand that efforts to address social determinants of health extend beyond ensuring the formerly incarcerated have a successful reentry back to their communities; these efforts must also focus on expanding opportunities for those at risk for entering the justice system. The HHS Office of Minority Health and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at DOJ joined forces to launch the Minority Youth Violence Prevention (MYVP) program in 2014, bringing public health and law enforcement together to address youth violence through a public health framework.
And we are already seeing the impact of this program – nearly 3,000 youth have been provided services through this effort. The District Attorney’s Office in Chatham County, Georgia, one of the nine MYVP grantees, manages the Youth Intercept Program. This program provides a safe haven for students to discuss the rise of gangs in Savannah, and through partnership with local schools it helps young people develop positive attitudes and focus on their futures. Since the program’s inception, truancy rates among Youth Intercept Program students have declined nearly 50%.
HHS and DOJ also continue to actively engage in advancing the goals of the White House My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative that works to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, including boys and young men of color and the White House Council on Women and Girls. DOJ and its Office of Justice Programs play a central role in MBK by focusing on preventing and reducing violence, improving outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring those who are victimized have access to services.
And this week, HHS issued new guidance extending Medicaid coverage to residents of certain community halfway houses – up to about 100,000 people. The guidance also clarifies a long-standing Medicaid policy that probationers, parolees, and those in home confinement are not considered inmates of public institutions and so should not be automatically denied Medicaid coverage.
Everyone, including those who have had contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, deserve the chance to achieve good health. Join us during National Reentry Week to learn more about federal resources and information on reentry programs.
Additional Reentry-Related Resources:
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Karol V. Mason, JD is the Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice