We have talked a lot about health equity in 20 Days of ACA as achieving health equity is important for Latinas’ health. Latin@s have the highest rates of health uninsurance and suffer from a number of diseases and conditions at higher rates than other racial/ethnic groups.
So, today we would like to cover some of the other awesome things the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is doing to promote health equity and reduce health disparities faced by communities of color and other underserved populations.
- Health reform established the Offices of Minority Health (OMH) at six agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.) The goal of these offices is to better “lead and coordinate activities that improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations and eliminate health disparities.”
- The ACA also creates Offices of Women’s Health (OWH) at federal agencies including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and creates a federal committee to coordinate work and information.
HHS has also crafted a number of strategic plans that together mark the nation’s first coordinated roadmap to reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. These plans are:
- The HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities develops specific goals and strategies for the years 2010-2015 to advance the vision of a “nation free of disparities in health and health care” and “improve the health of vulnerable populations across the lifespan.” The Action Plan details specific actions federal agencies will take to achieve five major goals for reducing health disparities. You can read the report in its entirety here.
- The National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity is a product of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) and “provides an overarching roadmaps for eliminating health disparities through cooperative and strategic actions.” Utilizing a ‘bottom-up’ approach by engaging individuals who work locally and nationally to improve health equity, the goals of the NPA and National Stakeholder Strategy were defined. The five goals are (1) increasing awareness of health disparities, (2) strengthening leadership for addressing disparities, (3) improving health outcomes for underserved communities, (4) improving cultural and linguistic competency in health care and (5) improving data coordination and utilization. The entire report is here.
- While Healthy People 2020 was not part of health reform, the national wellness and health promotion plan will work in concert with other HHS plans to reduce health disparities. Healthy People has been ‘producing a framework for public health prevention priorities and actions” for the past thirty years. However Healthy People 2020 is unique in that it developed with much participation from local and community health advocates and includes new initiatives including Adolescent Health, LGBT Health, and Social Determinants. One of the four stated goals of the 2020 plans is to “achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups.” Information on Healthy People 2020 is available here.
Why are these plans and strategies important for Latina reproductive health and justice?
We know that health equity advocates in communities across the country are doing great work to promote health, wellness and increase access to care for communities of color. However, achieving health equity is a long-term goal which involves overcoming a number of political, economic and social challenges. The federal government, with the power of the purse, can make substantial investments in local, state and national initiatives to end health disparities. And while politics will always play a role in affairs of the federal government, federal initiatives can help elevate the importance of health equity and educate policy makers on the importance of substantial and sustainable investments in the health of underserved communities.
Additionally, many of the above-listed strategies were developed with substantial input and buy-in from individuals who work with underserved communities to promote health, wellness and increase access to health care.
We know that Latinas, as a diverse group, can face multiple oppressions in our health care system. Federal strategies to highlight and address sources of inequities will not only improve Latinas’ health outcomes, but also advance social justice, dignity and the promise of equal opportunity for Latinas, their families and their communities.