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Earlier this year, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), in coordination with Payu-ta Inc. (an umbrella organization of non-governmental organizations in the Pacific region), held its first Community Tour and Regional Summit outside the contiguous U.S. at Guam Community College, where I serve as President and Chief Executive Officer. During this convening, community leaders shared stories of their respective struggles and challenges, while federal representatives highlighted programs and technical assistance to address the community’s needs.
We are proud to have convened 200 community leaders and 25 federal officials from agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration, and the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, and Veterans Affairs. Federal representatives heard community recommendations regarding next steps on topics such as housing, veterans issues, economic development, education, and health equity, and vowed to tackle those issues upon return to Washington, D.C. and their respective regional offices.
To ensure follow-up on the recommendations from the Guam Regional Summit, today, WHIAAPI, in collaboration with the Office of Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, is launching a Pacific Island Task Force comprised of officials from the agencies represented at the Summit and members of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs. The Task Force will function for at least one year with the goals of engaging agency officials around the specific needs of Pacific Islanders in order to increase opportunity and access to federal programs, developing capacity building and technical assistance support for non-governmental organizations in the Pacific region, and promoting data disaggregation and generation with federal partners.
The Task Force will issue a comprehensive report regarding their findings next year. The framework of the Task Force will mirror the existing infrastructure of the Initiative’s Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG), with the goal of promoting effective coordination and engagement efforts across federal offices.
This Task Force and its focus on non-governmental organizations in the region marks a new stepping stone for the Pacific region. This is part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to ensure that the voices, experiences, and challenges of Pacific Islanders are recognized and addressed.
Dr. Mary Ann Young Okada is Vice Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Across the country, communities of color are mobilizing for a stronger, healthier future, and advancing health equity for all by tackling one of the most
significant drivers of disparities in health – access to insurance coverage. At the center of that movement are the many organizations and advocates
working tirelessly to connect minority individuals and their families with opportunities to attain affordable health coverage made possible by the
Affordable Care Act.
As our nation gears up for the next health care open enrollment period this fall, 13 organizations will be further empowered to expand outreach to minority
uninsured people from grant awards totaling $3.2 million through the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health Partnerships to
Increase Coverage in Communities (PICC) Initiative. The PICC Initiative will provide grant awards to increase health insurance enrollment of racial and
These 13 organizations
will work to engage underserved communities and empower them with actionable information through partnerships with minority media, training for faith
leaders, hosting culturally and linguistically appropriate workshops and leveraging social media; where many people of color frequently turn to get and
share information. The innovative approaches of these organizations, which will include in-person assistance, are breaking down barriers that stand between
minorities and opportunities for reaching their best health.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more minorities have access to affordable, quality health care coverage, but gaps still exist. Those gaps underscore the
need to support increased health insurance enrollment for communities of color. We learned from the first open enrollment period in the Marketplace that to
reach minority people, outreach and education must be tailored to these communities.
Through the Affordable Care Act, the Health Insurance Marketplace is a gateway for closing health inequities for underserved and low-income people in our
country. Programs funded through the PICC Initiative can serve as critical links for connecting those most in need to access points for quality coverage
and care. These 13 organizations are poised to serve as vital partners in our efforts to reduce health disparities and achieve health equity for all
For additional information about the PICC Initiative and grant awardees, contact the OMH Press Office at: OMHMedia@hhs.gov.
Reposted from Health IT Buzz blog
During National Minority Health Month, we acknowledge the potential for health information technology (health IT) – from electronic and personal health
records to online communities to mobile applications – to transform health care and improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities. Lack of access to
quality, preventive health care, cultural and linguistic barriers, and limited patient-provider communication are factors that aggravate health
disparities. By increasing our investment in health IT policies and standards, we can help improve the quality of health care delivery and make it easier
for patients and providers to communicate with each other – a huge step toward addressing the persistence of health disparities.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project
found in 2012 that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to own a mobile phone than whites and outpace whites in mobile app use, using their phones
for a wider range of activities. The study showed that African Americans and Latinos use their mobile phones more often to look for health information
online. This has very important implications for personal management of health and interaction with the health care system. However, barriers to widespread
adoption of health IT remain. For example, a 2014 consumer engagement report found that minorities were less likely to adopt online patient portals to
access their health information than were non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, limited financial capital and lack of systems that can communicate effectively
with each other widen the digital divide between providers and other clinicians who provide health services to a significant number of minority
At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the HHS Office of Minority Health
(OMH) are committed to reducing technology gaps across and between communities of color as a key action of the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and
ensuring that the new electronic tools can support access to quality care and promote equity for everyone. This includes a targeted strategy focused on
four core areas:
1. Adoption of health IT in all communities;
2. Improving patient care by creating culturally and linguistically appropriate eHealth tools;
3. Facilitating secure exchange and confidentiality of patient data; and
4. Patient-centered consumer engagement.
Last year, ONC, OMH and ZeroDivide convened a diverse group of stakeholders at the White House to discuss how to advance eHealth among the underserved and
the role eHealth can play in achieving health equity. The discussion generated many ideas about increasing patient engagement using eHealth, identified
opportunities to work collaboratively, and committed participants to taking action following the meeting. The White House Summit on Achieving eHealth
Equity was followed by a webinar during which participants continued the dialogue and proposed specific action steps that are included in the briefing
In 2009, HHS enacted the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which laid the foundation and groundwork for health IT adoption
efforts for many healthcare professionals across the United States. Today, more than 70 percent of physicians and other healthcare clinicians practicing in
medically underserved and health professional shortage areas are engaged in efforts to adopt health IT, thanks to the work of the Regional Extension Center program. Adoption of technology is also
laying the foundation for communities to participate in and test out new payment models for care:
Health IT is already helping to improve chronic disease management and care coordination for health care providers and their patients, allowing the
development of targeted strategies focused on reducing chronic disease and other health issues that disproportionately impact communities of color.
It also has implications for prevention efforts. For example,
heart disease is the leading cause of death
across most racial and ethnic minority populations, accounting for 25 percent of all deaths, but many of the major risk factors for heart disease and
stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity are preventable. The Millions Hearts Initiative is a national effort to prevent
one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. This public-private partnership brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations,
federal agencies and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke. At ONC, Health IT Fellows – physicians and staff
who are using health IT as part of their everyday practice—are looking for specific ways to align the Million Hearts Initiative with technical assistance
and provider outreach programs with the goal of increasing the number of healthcare professionals using technology to detect and control hypertension and
other innovative strategies to engage in patient-centered care.
Through the interoperability and standards work at ONC, we are making sure patient information is secure and universally accessible to those who are
authorized to see it when they need it. Making sure the appropriate technical standards and specifications are in place is critical to establishing a fully
functional nationwide health IT ecosystem. Ensuring that providers have the right information about the right patient at the right time is essential to
advancing overall quality of care for everyone and improving health outcomes for the underserved.
Early experiences with health IT adoption demonstrate that
technology can lower costs
by improving transition of care processes and enhancing a health care professional’s ability to serve their patients with precision, especially for
minority communities. Hurricane Katrina is an example of this. The
use of mobile technology helped to meet the health needs of the community members
, especially minorities, as 75 percent of those affected by Katrina had access to a cell phone.
As we continue to push a national agenda to transform health care and advance health equity, we encourage communities and advocates to join the discussion.
For a list of current initiatives and opportunities to engage with HHS around health IT and health care transformation, visit www.healthit.gov. To learn more about National Minority Health Month and what HHS is doing to reduce health
disparities and to achieve health equity, visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.
Prevention is Power!
Each April, National Minority Health Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress made to improve the health and well-being of people of color
and remind ourselves of the hard work still ahead to reduce health disparities and inequity.
This year marks five years since the Health Information
Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and four years
since the monumental Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) were signed into law.
We are more certain than ever that we are on the right track and more hopeful than ever that all people can achieve and maintain their optimal health
The HITECH Act and ACA are designed to improve healthcare access and quality of care for all people living in the United States, but will benefit women of
color in particular. Women of color experience negative reproductive health outcomes at greater rates than their white counterparts, in part because of
lack of access to quality health care. Women of color are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, suffer from pregnancy-related diseases and
adverse outcomes, contract sexually-transmitted infections (STI) including HIV, and detect cancer at later stages. Fortunately, because of ACA and HITECH,
more women of color are able to access important health services and use technology to manage their care and track their progress.
The reproductive health field is a poignant example of where HITECH and ACA are working together to help people achieve the health they want. Within ACA,
the no-copay contraceptive coverage requirement ensures that all women are able to access contraception and related services at no additional cost through
their health insurance. So far, 5.4 million people who didn’t have coverage before
now have health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute reports that the percentage of women who obtain pills and contraceptive vaginal rings at no cost has increased from 15 percent to 40
percent and from 23 percent to 52 percent, respectively. It’s working to improve access! Of course, that’s a great thing - research shows that when women are able to access important health care like
contraception, they are better able to achieve their education, career, and economic goals – all of which are important factors that influence health and
well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
While ACA has been working to expand financial access to health care, HITECH has helped providers and patients better manage patient care, enhance quality, and improve health outcomes through
electronic health records (EHR) and other health information technologies. For women, this means being able to view lab results (like STI testing) online
in a timely fashion, track appointments and prenatal progress, and request refills for birth control electronically – this tool is of particular importance
for busy women who are juggling multiple responsibilities. For providers, it means keeping better track of important health information and coordinating
care for patients who have more than one care provider.
Moreover, health information technology and telemedicine have great potential to improve access to quality care for the millions of women living in rural or underserved
areas. For example, the Antenatal Neonatal Guidelines, Education, and Learning System (ANGELS) network, based at the University of Arkansas, connects family practitioners and patients with maternal, fetal, and neonatal medicine
specialists they may not have had access to otherwise. By building a bridge to share information and resources, technologies such as telemedicine, HIT, and
EHR enhance the ability of health systems to provide timely, quality, and comprehensive health care.
This month, we should pause to celebrate the progress made without losing sight of the work that needs to continue. We must continue reaching for full
participation in programs offered by the HITECH Act to make the most of existing health information technology. We must also push for full implementation
of the ACA. For example, expanding Medicaid eligibility requirements is critical for improving access to quality care, but it’s optional. A state can
choose whether or not to make changes that would allow more low-income people to enroll in the Medicaid program. Almost half of states - many of
which are home to large populations of people of color, people with lower incomes, and people living in rural areas - have not taken any action to
implement Medicaid expansion. These states must expand their Medicaid eligibility requirements as soon as possible so that their residents can start
benefitting from high quality health care. It’s working for millions of people right now, and it can work for millions more.
As a part of National Minority Health Month’s Workforce Week,
the HHS Office of Minority Health is launching an e-learning program entitled,
Cultural Competency Program for
Oral Health Professionals. This free program, offered exclusively online,
is designed to help oral health professionals build knowledge and skills related to cultural and
The program targets Dentists, Dental
Assistants, Dental Hygienists, Dental Specialists, and any other professional in the unique position to help
improve access to quality oral health care, and to help improve oral health outcomes of all patients. The
Cultural Competency Program for
Oral Health Professionals is a 3-course, ADA CERP Recognized e-learning program that will offer eligible oral health professionals the opportunity to gain up to 6 continuing education credits at no cost to them.
The Cultural Competency Program for Oral Health Professionals will equip participants with the awareness and skills necessary to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to all patients. The HHS Office of Minority Health has strived to produce a creative and practical program, based on expert and target user feedback, which will help oral health professionals deliver a higher quality of care for all of their patients.
In addition, the e-learning program is designed to equip oral health professionals with the basic cultural and linguistic competency knowledge and skills so that they can:
For more information or to access the program, please visit: oralhealth.thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov.
For more information on delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate services in other health professions visit: www.ThinkCulturalHealth.hhs.gov.