HHS seeks to reduce health disparities

WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday launched two plans aimed at reducing health disparities.

“For the first time, the United States has a coordinated road map designed to give everyone the chance to live a healthy life,” stated 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.”

The "HHS Action Plan to Reduce 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 is a product of the National Partnership and 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, are more likely to suffer from such serious illnesses as diabetes or heart disease, and when they do get sick, are less likely to have access to quality health care, HHS stated.

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.

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.

The HHS Office of Minority Health also is launching new Web pages to provide information and tools for organizations and individuals working to reduce healthcare disparities.

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