I Hope This Ruling Will Stimulate a Stronger Sense of Urgency to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities

Jul 13, 2012, 1:32 PM, Posted by Janice Phillips

This post is part of a series in which Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, grantees and alumni offer perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Affordable Care Act.  Janice Phillips, PhD, RN, FAAN, is associate professor, adult health and gerontological nursing at Rush University College of Nursing and an RWJF Health Policy Fellow (2010 – 2011).

I am deeply encouraged by the recent Supreme Court Health ruling on health reform. I consider this a major step toward ensuring that the countless numbers of patients, underserved communities and even personal friends who I have worked with will now have a better chance of getting the health care they deserve.

Far too many of them have suffered from chronic health conditions and related complications, in part due to a lack of preventive services and a lack of timely access to the health care they need.

My in-depth exposure to health reform occurred during my tenure as an RWJF Health Policy Fellow working in the office of Senator John D Rockefeller IV (W.Va.). It was there that I was introduced to the complexities and the comprehensive nature of the Affordable Care Act.

That experience left me to wonder how best to educate underserved communities and those who are most in need.  My desire in moving forward is that communities that stand to benefit the most are educated and empowered to take full advantage of the extended coverage and protections in the Affordable Care Act.

The health reform law makes new investments in preventive and coordinated care, diversity and cultural competency that are sorely needed, as is the expanded access to quality health care the law will bring.  There is information here about how the Affordable Care Act makes a significant federal investment in reducing health disparities and improving the health of those in communities that have long been underserved. 

My personal experience has demonstrated that there is a great unmet need.  I grew up in a low-income family in Chicago and my grandmother died of breast cancer, which might have been detected and treated if she had access to preventive and other care.  I have worked as a nurse and nurse educator focused on improving preventive services and care for low-income African American women, so I have seen firsthand the huge unmet need for care in underserved communities.

I am hopeful that the new ruling will stimulate a stronger sense of commitment and urgency to reduce and ultimately eliminate the health disparities that continue to plague our nation.  At the end of the day, I hope that there are clear indications of improved health outcomes for the many uninsured, underserved and others who are most in need.  

Read more about Janice Phillips’ background and work.  Learn more about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.