Blog: National Partnership for Action
Posted on 9/27/2013 by Coleen A. Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, and J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE.
A generation ago, almost 15 percent of children in the United States born with sickle cell disease died before the age of two. Many more died in their teens. 1
Today, babies born with sickle cell disease face a far more promising future. Children and adults can benefit from treatment options that help mediate complications of the disease. According to data from CDC's National Vital Statistics System, the proportion of deaths from sickle cell disease among children decreased from 12 percent in 1979 to approximately 3 percent in 2006. Since the signing of the National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act 41 years ago, considerable progress has been made in biomedical research, disease surveillance, and care coordination.
But as patients and families know all too well, barriers to care and quality treatment persist. Between 90,000 and 100,000 people in the U.S. currently live with sickle cell disease, making it the most common inherited blood disorder in the country. Minorities bear a disproportionate burden, with the disease occurring in roughly one out of every 500 African American births and one out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births. And far too many have struggled to access the quality care that they need to manage the disease and live a healthy life.
That began to change three years ago, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
By directly addressing barriers to care and coverage, the Affordable Care Act has created new opportunities for those living with sickle disease to access affordable, high-quality health insurance and medical services – opportunities that many may never have had before.
Because of the law, sickle cell disease and other pre-existing conditions can no longer be grounds for denial of coverage from health insurers – a provision of the law that would provide security to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Young adults living with sickle cell disease can now stay on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26, ensuring smoother transitions from pediatric care to adult care.
In addition, screening for sickle cell disease among newborns is now one of the preventive services covered at no cost under the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the law, approximately 71 million Americans can now access these screenings and other important preventive services without having to pay a co-pay or deductible.
The law is also helping community health teams to explore new opportunities for improved disease management through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) Innovation Center – and expanding access to care through investments in community health centers, where nearly two-thirds of patients served are people of color.
Meanwhile, agencies across the Department of Health and Human Services are working to make the most of these opportunities. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers are studying how sickle cell disease is managed at the community level through a state-based project called PHRESH (Public Health Research Epidemiology and Surveillance of Hemoglobinopathies). Using data collected from the program, CDC is helping states build capacity to monitor health system changes stemming from the Affordable Care Act – giving them the tools they need to identify the most effective interventions, highlight quality measures, and zero in on the "hotspots" of chronic conditions where they are needed most.
At the Office of Minority Health, one of the office's strategic priorities – leading the implementation of the first-ever HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities – includes strengthening the cultural and linguistic competency of the health and health care workforce to improve health care quality and reduce health disparities. And as implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, the Office of Minority Health's outreach and education efforts in minority communities are helping to reach those living with sickle cell disease and others who stand to benefit most from the health care law.
Three years after its passage, the Affordable Care Act has touched the lives of millions of Americans – including the thousands living with sickle cell disease. And this is just the beginning. On October 1, millions of Americans will have a chance to enroll in affordable health insurance coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, with coverage beginning as early as January 1, 2014. While the fight against sickle cell disease continues, the health care law is giving patients and families affected by sickle disease unprecedented opportunities for improved care and expanded coverage – and new hope for a healthier future.
Learn more about the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov.
Posted in: Health Minority Populations OMH Promising Practices HHS Health Disparities Partnership Federal Prevention Affordable Care Act/Health Care Law African American Asian American Health Care Health Equity Hispanic/Latino Promotores/Community Health Workers Research & Evaluation | Comments (1) | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
Posted on 9/18/2013 by Amirah Abdullah
A world free of disparities in health and health care, where all people are able to attain the highest level of health, may appear utopic. However, this is the vision of the Southeastern Health Equity Council (SHEC) for the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. These states are comprised of a diverse population, with some groups demonstrating an increased risk of adverse health outcomes, and many residing in rural locations that restrict access to care.
To achieve its vision of health equity, the SHEC is collecting and utilizing data to outline the challenges and opportunities facing the region. Data is a powerful tool that can illuminate issues, inform decisions, and portray the impacts of such decisions.
As an intern working with the SHEC, I have had the opportunity to contribute to their latest efforts to improve the health of the population by increasing awareness on state-level policies and practices related to health care access, healthy food choices, and cultural competency. From June through August 2013, I researched data in 12 domains using 19 indicators to help answer questions about the physical environment, food choices, health behaviors, diversity in the health care workforce, and health care coverage affect an individuals’ lifespan, with the intent to generate a regional health equity report card.
This report card, which will be available this fall, will present detailed data by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, urban/rural location, and disability, which will be used by the SHEC for the first time to inform local policy makers. It will allow a look at several domains across multiple demographic measures at the same time, to generate a much needed holistic response to resolving health disparity issues. The SHEC will emphasize health disparity indicators and gaps in existing data to illustrate the importance of collecting data from minority groups. The SHEC developed the report card using Healthy People 2020 goals (where available), year comparisons, and national comparisons to grade each indicator.
Although the SHEC region is known to have some of the poorest performing states in the nation, the data never cease to provide compelling evidence of unequal burdens of disease in our communities. The Southeast represents 19 percent of the total population in the country. Yet in 2010, this region accounted for 21 percent of heart disease mortality nationally, with factors such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension affecting this population at a substantially higher rate than other areas of the country.
A health equity report card could not come at a more opportune time, with the ongoing national discourse about health care access and reducing the costs of health care. In spotlighting the disparities in the Southeastern region of the country, we create a unique opportunity to educate local and national policy makers, and generate discourse that can influence health outcomes in the region for the better.
We can effectively point policy makers toward decisions that improve healthy food choices, enhance health care access and promote well-being. We also create the opportunity to specify populations and issues that merit the attention of state and local policy makers and communities. Over time, we have a real opportunity to look back in time and ask – “did we make the grade?”
The development of the SHEC health equity report card is an exciting first step in making this vision a reality. However, it is important to remember that we must all play our parts in making the states in the Southeast a healthier place to live.
How do you grade progress on health disparities indicators in your state or region? Let us know by commenting below.
Posted in: Minority Populations NPA Partners Promising Practices Health Disparities Federal Prevention Data & Statistics Health Equity Minority Health | Comments | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
Posted on 9/11/2013 by Pamela Ascon
You are in a foreign country and your child is feeling sick. You rush her to the hospital and want to quickly speak to a doctor. Instead, you are given a long form asking many questions in a complete different language. You ask for help, but no one seems to comprehend your heavy accent.
This is the reality that my family and I encountered when visiting medical facilities for many years. As a child who had recently arrived to America, I attempted to act as a translator between the doctor and my mother with the few vocabulary words that I had learned so far in school. I remember my mother’s face emanating discomfort with her inability to fully express her feelings and concerns.
I now understand that the helpless look on my mother’s face was a true reflection of the challenges consistently encountered by many minority populations.
Some of the most significant barriers between healthcare providers and patients are language and cultural differences, which can play a crucial role in patient health outcome. If patients have a hard time communicating with their healthcare provider, this can lead to errors in diagnosis or treatment. With the ample range of cultures in the United States, patients’ cultural beliefs are of equal importance. If a patient’s belief interferes with their treatment option, the clinician should respectfully accommodate the patient while ensuring that they have a successful health outcome.
In 2050, it is estimated that the minority population will account for almost half of the U.S population [PDF | 283KB], underscoring the necessity of culturally and linguistically appropriate approaches. To inform these approaches, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services has recently released the Enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in health and health care, also known as the CLAS Standards. This blueprint guides implementation to advance and sustain culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. It also highlights the importance of providing quality and equal health services to minorities.
Currently, CLAS Standards are being utilized to improve operational functions within the workplace by equipping culturally and linguistically competent staff to serve the needs of the populations that they serve. CLAS Standards improve quality of care and patient safety while decreasing the liability risk for health care providers. They will ultimately prepare health and healthcare organizations to meet the needs of minorities while improving health care quality.
Therefore, I encourage health and health care organizations to adopt and implement CLAS Standards. Working as a team, we can narrow the cultural and language gaps within the health care system and eliminate a major barrier to achieving health equity in the nation.
Posted in: Health Minority Populations Promising Practices Health Disparities Federal CLAS Cultural & Linguistic Competency Health Care Minority Health | Comments | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
Smartphone and mobile apps: An important solution to increasing participation and engagement of minority and underserved communities
Posted on 8/22/2013 by Regina Greer- Smith, MPH FACHE
These are exciting times. Today, technology allows us to advance knowledge and empower members of underserved communities with information at rapid speed and with minimal cost. Considering the use of smartphone and mobile apps may be an important solution to increasing participation and engagement of minority and underserved communities in patient-centered outcomes research and comparative effectiveness research. Patient-centered outcomes research involves research that brings both the patient and providers together for shared decision-making for better outcomes and determining the costs and benefits of one course of treatment over another.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project , minorities (along with young adults) are leading consumers of health information via mobile platforms. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to own a mobile phone than whites and outpace whites in mobile app use. African Americans are using Twitter to share information, especially about neighborhood events. This information should be leveraged by researchers to use mobile apps and smartphone technology in research engagement with minorities and underserved communities.
Taking the concept a step further, creating apps that deliver education and information from trusted members of communities – such as ministers, physicians and researchers – could increase wider participation because of the trust and relationships that are already in place.
As an example, an innovative research project to engage African American women in research is now underway. Women stay connected using a smartphone app to learn about breast cancer, receive messages about the importance of participation in clinical trials and connect with researchers who they select to work with.
Developing mobile apps to include education and resources about the benefits of participating in patient-centered outcomes research and topics of interest to minority populations could increase their participation and involvement. Consider the possibilities for raising awareness and advancing health equity in research through mobile apps:
Developers and researchers must be aware that patients, caregivers and other community stakeholders are key partners in the development of mobile apps, because mobile apps are being developed for their use to enable and increase their participation – and not solely for the use of the researcher as a recruitment vehicle.
In January, 2013, Regina Greer-Smith, along with a team of healthcare professionals, formed The Midwest /Partners Patient Engagement Cluster , (MPPEC) resulting from involvement with The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a non-profit organization created from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in October 2012. MPPEC’s mission is to engage patients and researchers in patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative effectiveness research (CER).
Posted in: Health Minority Populations NPA Partners Promising Practices Health Disparities Prevention African American Health Care Health Equity Hispanic/Latino Minority Health Research & Evaluation | Comments (1) | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
Posted on 8/21/2013 by Robin Whittemore
Minority adults are at a disproportionate risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a challenging illness to manage that is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. Evidence indicates that lifestyle change programs, which incorporate healthy eating, physical activity and modest weight loss, can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. Yet, access to diabetes prevention programs is limited, particularly among minority and low-income adults.
To help address the issues with access to diabetes prevention programs, we designed a study to link existing community resources—public housing communities and a homecare agency— to minority and low-income adults at-risk for type 2 diabetes. Public housing communities provide housing at reduced rental costs for families of low socioeconomic status. We chose this setting because these communities often have the space and personnel to support a community-based program. The homecare agency consists of nurses who monitor and implement healthcare in a home environment, and are trusted health professionals in public housing communities.
We worked collaboratively with homecare nurses and residents of public housing to modify a diabetes prevention program to meet the needs of the community (e.g., low health literacy, family focused, culturally relevant, limited resources). We then evaluated the effect of a six-month diabetes prevention program provided by homecare nurses compared to a one-month enhanced standard care condition. Community health workers assisted nurses in the delivery of the programs.
The 67 participants were primarily female (79%), racial and ethnic minorities (76% non-white), had a high school education (72%), were unemployed (73%), unpartnered (83%), with an average age of 40 years, and an average of three children. Approximately half of the sample had elevated depressive symptoms (51%). Thus, our program reached adults with multiple health risks.
Homecare nurses were able to implement the program as intended; however, attendance at classes was sub-optimal, particularly with the six-month program. We did not see any difference between groups on any health outcomes, possibly because both groups received a similar program. What was promising was that there were significant improvements in health behaviors in both groups. Participants increased fruit and vegetable intake, low-fat eating, meal planning and improved nutrition behavior and physical activity. Participants decreased sugar drink intake, unhealthy snacking and triglycerides. They also reported improved stress management and decreased depressive symptoms. We did not see significant changes in BMI, glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure.
These findings suggest that brief diabetes prevention programs can dramatically improve the health behaviors of a high-risk, vulnerable population. Collaborating with a homecare agency and key stakeholders, and providing the program by homecare nurses was highly acceptable to nurses and participants, and offers a feasible and potentially sustainable way to improve access to diabetes prevention programs. Future dissemination and evaluation of health promotion programs for residents of public housing communities are urgently needed.
This study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation .
Posted in: Health Minority Populations NPA Partners Promising Practices Health Disparities Prevention Diabetes Health Care Health Equity Minority Health | Comments (2) | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
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The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
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