HHS Engages Communities to Address Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

HHS’s National Partnership for Action to End
Health Disparities
(a project of the Office
of Minority Health) recently hosted a conference call announcing a new new initiative
focused on reducing health disparities in the U.S.  The National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health
developed after engaging communities across the country around the priorities
and potential strategies to address health disparities. A complement to the
Stakeholder Strategy, the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health
outlines how HHS is committed to an ongoing effort and evaluation of its
policies and programs to reduce disparities. More importantly, in the HHS
Action Plan, the Department holds itself accountable for increasing health
insurance coverage, improving the quality of care, building data capacity,
preventing disease and strengthening cultural competency. 

HHS is applauded for launching these new efforts and
recognizing key ways in which the Affordable Care Act helps to address them and
pointing out that any effort that is focused on addressing health care costs,
must address health disparities. 
Racial and ethnic health minorities are not only less likely to get the
preventive care they need, but they are more likely to suffer from health care
conditions such as diabetes and asthma that can be better managed with quality
care, which they also receive less likely than their White counterparts- all of
which contributes to higher cost and less effective care.

Fortunately, as the HHS Action Plan points out, the ACA
and CHIPRA included funding and new policy tools to help begin to address these
disparities.  Some of these include
expanding access to affordable health coverage through Medicaid and the new
Exchanges, increasing the number of children enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid who
have access to dental care, providing grant funding to increase the proportion
of people with a usual primary care provider, offering demonstration grants
through Medicaid and CHIP to promote better asthma care for racial and ethnic
minorities and allocating funding for outreach that is targeted and effective
to enroll racial and ethnic minorities into health coverage.  The hope is that by holding itself
accountable to these goals and strategies, continually evaluating their effectiveness
and engaging community partners across the country in the process, that health
disparities will be reduced and as a nation we will be healthier overall.

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