Addressing the Need for Health Equity

Acting Assistant Secretary Sheldon at podium giving closing remarks as guest panel looks on.On April 3, the Administration for Children and Families kicked off Minority Health Month with a panel of experts from the Office of Minority Health discussing health equity in the United States. Four knowledgeable officials gave us a look at initiatives designed to increase access to health care for people of color, immigrants, and the LGBT community.

OMH has developed a national stakeholders’ strategy with impressive goals:

  • Goal 1: Awareness—Increase awareness of the significance of health disparities, their impact on the nation, and the actions necessary to improve health outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.
  • Goal 2: Leadership—Strengthen and broaden leadership for addressing health disparities at all levels.
  • Goal 3: Health System and Life Experience—Improve health and healthcare outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.
  • Goal 4: Cultural and Linguistic Competency—Improve cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the health-related workforce.
  • Goal 5: Data, Research, and Evaluation—Improve data availability and coordination, utilization, and diffusion of research and evaluation outcomes.

The office has also established ten Regional Health Equity Councils. These Councils bring together leaders from communities across the country. Their task is to determine how best to use federal, state, tribal and local resources to leverage funds from philanthropic and non-profit organizations in order to redress health disparities. The Affordable Care Act funds technical assistance for these councils.

Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon affirmed ACF’s strong support of OMH’s efforts.  He emphasized that good health is intimately related to ACF’s mission of promoting social and economic well-being. Even though ACF’s programs concentrate principally on financial assistance and social services to help people get back on their feet, we also address our client’s health concerns. For example: 

  • The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s preventive health program works with state and local agencies to make it easier for refugees to access the often-confusing health care system.  That might mean arranging for interpreters, providing health education or coordinating a whole range of health services.
  • The Office of Child Support Enforcement also gets involved in the health of its clients. It’s not only about collecting checks; medical support of children is an integral part of child support orders. And this program reaches an audience that others often miss—men.
  • The Office of Community Services has a big and important piece of the action in the form of its healthy food financing initiative. This is an exciting approach to addressing food deserts—communities where the residents are deprived of fresh and nutritious food because there are no convenient supermarkets--just corner stores stocked with the kind of processed, packaged junk that leads to obesity and other health problems. Now money is available to establish stores and farmers’ markets that will supply healthy and affordable food to neighborhoods that are starving for it.

Learn more about Minority Health Month events planned throughout the country.