An inclusive health and social system that treats people equitably and creates conditions in which all people can achieve optimal health reflects an educated society and a strong economy.
Even though medical advances and new technologies have provided Americans with the potential for longer and healthier lives, persistent and well-documented health disparities affecting racial and ethnic minority populations persist.
Racial and ethnic minorities still lag behind in many health outcome measures. They are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy, more likely to suffer from serious illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease. When they do get sick, they are less likely to have access to quality health care. Other underserved communities have equally pressing and often unrecognized challenges to health.
The National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) was established to mobilize a nationwide, comprehensive, community-driven, and sustained approach to combating health disparities and to move the nation toward achieving health equity.
Using an approach that vests those at the front line with the responsibility of identifying and helping to shape core actions, new approaches and new partnerships are being established to help close the health gap in the United States.
The mission of the NPA is to increase the effectiveness of programs that target the elimination of health disparities through the coordination of partners, leaders, and stakeholders committed to action.
The goals of the NPA and its National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity are:
- Awareness - Increase awareness of the significance of health disparities, their impact on the nation, and the actions necessary to improve health outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.
- Leadership - Strengthen and broaden leadership for addressing health disparities at all levels.
- Health System and Life Experience - Improve health and healthcare outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.
- Cultural and Linguistic Competency - Improve cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the health-related workforce.
- Data, Research, and Evaluation - Improve data availability and coordination, utilization, and diffusion of research and evaluation outcomes.
Many of the underlying risk factors that contribute to health disparities are the result of where we live, learn, work and play. These factors, commonly called "social determinants of health," interact to impact health and contribute to health disparities.
Eliminating health disparities will necessitate behavioral, environmental, and social-level approaches to address issues such as insufficient education, inadequate housing, exposure to violence, and limited opportunities to earn a livable wage.
Developing the NPA
Nearly 2,000 committed individuals attended the National Leadership Summit for Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health sponsored by the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH). They provided the impetus to broaden the dialog beyond the health community, and establish the NPA as a national movement. The summit stimulated a systems-oriented approach that addresses crosscutting, multilevel issues.
OMH responded by formulating initial NPA goals, but sought to establish the priorities for a national strategy using a community-oriented approach.
The process for developing what became the National Stakeholder Strategy was deliberate. It began by obtaining the views of community leaders and other stakeholders. Small "Community Voices" meetings, other focused sessions, and larger "Regional Conversations" stimulated analysis, input, and content refinement from community, professional, business, government, academic, and other representatives.
Throughout this process, a Federal Interagency Health Equity Team, now comprising representatives of HHS and 11 other Federal, cabinet-level departments, coordinated federal efforts.
Ultimately, a draft strategy was published for public review, and more than 2,000 comments were received, analyzed and considered.
The Strategy and the HHS Plan
The result is the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity (National Stakeholder Strategy)
. It is a roadmap for eliminating health disparities through cooperative and strategic actions. Regional Blueprints for Action
will align with the National Stakeholder Strategy
to help guide action at the local, state, and regional levels. Targeted initiatives will be organized by partners across the public and private sectors in support of the NPA.
A second outcome is the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
, which was released together with the National Stakeholder Strategy.
It outlines goals and actions HHS will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities and builds on provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
This plan will be used by HHS agencies to assess the impact of policies and programs on racial and ethnic health disparities, and to promote integrated approaches, evidence-based programs and best practices to reduce these disparities.
Together these plans will guide the work going forward. Together we can. Together we will.