Townhall Tonight to Mark the Start of Minority Health Month

Apr 2, 2012, 8:28 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

NadineGracia Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

To mark the start of National Minority Health Month, the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will host a Townhall event that will include community discussions on how the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and other initiatives are advancing health equity in minority communities in the United States.

Speakers at the Townhall will include Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health, and J. Nadine Gracia, MD, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, who will discuss progress made under the HHS Action Plan at its one year anniversary. Community-based organizations will showcase local disparity reduction efforts.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Gracia about the Townhall event.

NewPublicHealth: Why a Townhall?

Dr. Gracia: If you look at our theme, you’ll see we recognize that health disparities in minority communities have burdened this country for far too long. But, important steps in the last year or two have occurred, including the release of the National Action Plan a year ago. But we can’t do this alone. It’s important to interact with the community, to raise the call to action and to hear from the community. It’s really a partnership. We need everyone engaged in this.

NPH: Have you seen progress on closing the gap?

Dr. Gracia: We have indeed. One I will highlight is on the rate of flu vaccination. We know the people most at risk for complications are those who have certain chronic conditions such as asthma, and we see higher rates of those diseases in minority communities. But with regard to childhood flu vaccination, the disparity gap has been closed because of some great programs that are based on targeted efforts and allow for access and free vaccines. Some of the covered preventive services, such as smoking cessation counseling and services, under the Affordable Care Act, can achieve similar successes.

NPH: What are the lessons learned that can be applied in other programs and initiatives?

Dr. Gracia: It certainly brings into bear that targeted programs that are culturally sensitive, culturally appropriate can have an impact, as well as thinking about barriers such as cost. Having preventive programs at no cost helps to remove barriers.

NPH: What else will the Townhall highlight?

Dr. Gracia: In addition to our theme; there are four sub-themes: oral health, obesity, youth violence and organ donation. We chose these because we looked at health issues and health challenges among minority populations and for these issues we saw significant disparities. We also got feedback from our partners around the country including community-based organizations and health departments which helps to drive some of the issues we focus on.

With these issues and others we’re determining, we have a coordinated roadmap toward achieving health equity.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.