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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today launched two strategic plans aimed at reducing health disparities.
The HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities outlines goals and actions HHS will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.
HHS also released the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, a common set of goals and objectives for public and private sector initiatives and partnerships to help racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved groups reach their full health potential. The strategy, a product of the National Partnership for Action (NPA), incorporates ideas, suggestions and comments from thousands of individuals and organizations across the country. The NPA was coordinated by the HHS Office of Minority Health.
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, and when they do get sick, are less likely to have access to quality health care.
The Affordable Care Act offers the potential to address the needs of racial and ethnic minority populations, by bringing down health care costs, investing in prevention and wellness, supporting improvements in primary care, and creating linkages between the traditional realms of health and social services.
"For the first time, the United States has a coordinated road map designed to give everyone the chance to live a healthy life," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "We all need to work together to combat this persistent problem so that we can build healthier communities and a stronger nation."
Today, Secretary Sebelius will meet with patients, community leaders and advocates at the Boriken Community Health Center in East Harlem, N.Y., to see firsthand how communities are addressing gaps in coverage. Later today, she also will keynote the National Action Network's Women's Power Lunch to outline the "call to action" to end disparities in health and health care.
Goals of the HHS Action Plan include transforming health care and expanding access, building on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act related to expanded insurance coverage and increased access to care. The plan also calls for more opportunities to increase the number of students from populations underrepresented in the health professions, train more people in medical interpretation to help serve patients with a limited command of English, and train community workers to help people navigate the system.
The plan also calls for HHS to set data standards and upgrade collection and analysis of data on race, ethnicity, primary language and other demographic categories in line with new provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
"Health disparities have burdened our country for too long," said Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH. "This plan reaffirms and revitalizes a national commitment to helping all persons reach their full health potential."
Local groups can use the National Stakeholder Strategy to identify which goals are most important for their communities and adopt the most effective strategies and action steps to help reach them.
Both plans call for federal agencies and their partners to work together on social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities.
"Where people live, learn, work and play affects their health as much as their access to health care," said Garth Graham, MD, MPH, deputy assistant secretary for minority health and director of the HHS Office of Minority Health. "We have to confront the social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities if we are to fulfill the President's goal of ‘winning the future.'"
The HHS Office of Minority Health is also launching new web pages to provide information and tools for organizations and individuals working to reduce health care disparities.
For more information about the plans and the National Partnership for Action, visit: www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/npa.
For more information about health disparities and the Affordable Care Act, visit: www.healthcare.gov/law/infocus/disparities.