April is National Minority Health Month. The front-page article in the April 2011 Child Support Report paints a clear picture about how lack of access to affordable health care exacerbates the health and income disparities in this country. The article also highlights how the child support program can help to brighten the picture of health for minority men—by referring noncustodial parents to health care services. This potential role in connecting children and both parents to health care coverage is especially important since the Affordable Care Act will provide many new options for health care coverage.
We know that the ability to work and pay child support can be affected by chronic poor health. Employers have begun to recognize that the quality of health care that their workers receive is important to employee health, productivity, performance, and business outcomes. We also know that children’s continuity of coverage improves when their parents have health coverage. Research shows that an effective way to boost health coverage for low-income children is to expand public coverage options for their parents.
Because the child support program is one of the few public systems that reach large numbers of low-income men, we are uniquely positioned to become a key access point for male health care referrals. To explore the role of the child support program as an information and referral point for parents seeking to access affordable health care options, OCSE is entering into a new partnership with the HHS Office of Minority Health. Take a look at the website and let me know what you think—please leave your comment at the end of this blog.
Health care coverage referrals should be part of a family-centered, more holistic approach to services. You may be interested in the White House blog on What Health Reform Means for African Americans.
We can also spread the word about grant opportunities. Understanding the health behaviors of racial and ethnic minority males is the premise behind upcoming NIH grants for testing culturally and linguistically appropriate health-promoting interventions to reduce health disparities among racially and ethnically diverse males.
As the front-page article stresses, partnerships are key to this holistic approach. OCSE continues to seek collaborative opportunities with federal and state agencies as well as community organizations that also serve our customers. For the “bubble chart” (left) to be successful, we’ll need to continue to create and strengthen relationships with other programs that serve the families who come into the child support program, such as Medicaid, CHIP, Head Start, SNAP (food stamps), WIC, and SSI.
As OCSE continues to work on updating our medical support policy and regulations to increase health care coverage for the children in our caseload, we recognize that we can also serve children by helping their parents stay healthy.
I for one am excited that we have joined the health disparities discussion. I look forward to working with other leaders to reduce health disparities and bridge the gap between families and health care and other social services. We can help to paint a brighter picture of minority male health.