The field of health equity is more and more part of the national conversation. Since we last wrote to you, several key reports have been published, the Affordable Care Act turned one year old, and we celebrated National Minority Health Month in April. In this issue of Think Cultural Health News, we take a look at the progress made and research released in the past few months. Thank you for your continued work promoting and implementing culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
Guadalupe Pacheco, MSW
Senior Health Advisor to the Director
Office of Minority Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
HHS Plans to Reduce Health Disparities and Achieve Health Equity
In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched two strategic plans that promote health equity: the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity.
Both strategic plans facilitate coordination among the federal agencies and their partners on social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities. Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the HHS Office of Minority Health, said “Where people live, learn, work and play affects their health as much as their access to health care. We have to confront the social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities.”
The HHS Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities is a set of goals and actions to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, including 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 National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity is a set of goals and objectives for public and private sector initiatives and partnerships to help underserved groups reach their full health potential. Local groups can use it to identify which goals are most important for their communities and adopt the most effective strategies and action steps to help reach them.
The Affordable Care Act Turns One
The Affordable Care Act will play a critical role in promoting health equity throughout the nation as it is implemented in our health care system. The Affordable Care Act will help address health care disparities by increasing access, bringing down costs, investing in prevention and wellness, supporting improvements in primary care, and creating linkages between the traditional realms of health and social services.
Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the HHS Office of Minority Health, said during an interview with National Public Radio that the Affordable Care Act targets health care disparities among racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations by increasing health insurance coverage and strengthening Medicaid to cover more individuals who work. He said, “[We are] making sure that we make health insurance…accessible for all individuals across the board….We've got to make sure that we take care of everybody.”
Also coinciding with the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, the Center for American Progress and the National Coalition for LGBT Health published a report entitled, “Changing the Game: What Health Reform Means for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans.” The report details the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, including the need for health care reform and disparities within this community, provisions of the law that affect LGBT individuals, and areas for advocacy.
Health Disparities Report from the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
The HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published two reports this spring: the 2010 National Healthcare Quality Report and the 2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report. These reports measure trends in effectiveness of care, patient safety, timeliness of care, patient centeredness, and efficiency of care. The reports seek to understand:
- What is the status of health care quality and disparities in the United States?
- How have health care quality and disparities changed over time?
- Where is the need to improve health care quality and reduce disparities greatest?
Four themes emerged from the reports:
- Health care quality and access are suboptimal, especially for minority and low-income groups.
- Quality is improving; access and disparities are not improving.
- Urgent attention is warranted to ensure improvements in quality and progress on reducing disparities with respect to certain services, geographic areas, and populations.
- Progress is uneven with respect to eight national priority areas, and all eight priority areas showed disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Highlights from the Report:
- The report found that racial and ethnic minorities and poor people often receive poorer quality of care and face more barriers when trying to access care.
- Disparities in quality of care are common:
- Blacks and American Indians and Alaska Natives received worse care than Whites for about 40% of core measures.
- Asians received worse care than Whites for about 20% of core measures.
- Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for about 60% of core measures.
- Poor people received worse care than high-income people for about 80% of core measures.
- Disparities in access are also common, especially among Hispanics and poor people:
- Blacks had worse access to care than Whites for one-third of core measures.
- Asians and American Indians and Alaska Natives had worse access to care than Whites for 1 of 5 core measures.
- Hispanics had worse access to care than non-Hispanic Whites for 5 of 6 core measures.
- Poor people had worse access to care than high-income people for all 6 core measures.
The report concluded, “We need to improve access to care, reduce disparities, and accelerate the pace of quality improvement, especially in the areas of preventive care, chronic disease management, and safety.”
- June 20-23: United States Public Health Service Scientific Training and Symposium in New Orleans, Louisiana
- July 19-22: National Association of Hispanic Nurses Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada
The United States Public Health Service Scientific Training and Symposium is June 20-23 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The event will discuss “Public Health Leadership: The Key to a Healthier Nation.” Join us as we present on TCH’s Cultural Competency Curriculum for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response! For more information, visit http://www.phscofevents.org.
The National Association of Hispanic Nurses will meet on July 19-22 in Las Vegas, Nevada, for an Annual Meeting focused on “Assessing and Advocating for Equality and Quality for Hispanic Health Care from Health Care Reform.” Check out our presentation on TCH’s Culturally Competent Nursing Care: A Cornerstone of Caring! For more information, visit http://www.thehispanicnurses.org/annual-conference.
Is there a conference or professional event you think the Think Cultural Health Team should attend and propose a presentation? Let us know at