"You can not fix what you will not face." James Baldwin
The federal Office of Minority Health (OMH), US Department of Human Services created the National Partnership for Action in 2006 and convened a federal team to address health disparities. From 2007-2009 the OMH met with diverse communities and organizations to develop strategies and actions to systematically address health disparities. These meetings led to the creation of the "National Plan of Action to End Disparities," a unique bottoms-up approached-plan (The Plan).
Health disparities can be based not only on race and ethnicity, but also on geography, gender and socioeconomic status. The Plan provides a road map - a starting point - of the collaborative strategies and collective actions.
I was invited to participate on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Minority Health Advisory Group to provide input into the draft Plan and more specifically, to raise awareness about health concerns in the Asian American community such as Hepatitis B which affects 1/10 Asian Americans and is the leading cause of liver cancer. It can be prevented via a series of three vaccinations or treated with medication. Go to www.sfhepbfree.org for more information.
Minority populations now comprise 34% of the total US population, are increasing in number faster than the White population, and are expected to represent 40% of the population by the year 2030.
In California, the current population breakdown is as follows:
• 42.3% White (not including White Hispanic)
• 36.6% are Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
• 12.5% Asian
• 6.7% Black or African American
• 2.6% Multiracial
• 1.2% American Indian
In September 2009, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies issued "The Economic Burden of Health Inequities in the United States" which provides insight to the costs associated with NOT eliminating health disparities. The study concluded that the combined costs of heath inequalities and premature death in this country were $1.24 trillion and will rise exponentially in the near future. This is a health and economic crisis that needs to be addressed immediately and collectively.
While there are many underlying social causes for health disparities such as the environment, race or poverty that must be dealt with on a policy level, there are still many things that every individual citizen can do to take control of his or her own health which can be as simple as getting tested for Hepatitis B or modifying your diet to prevent diabetes.
There is nothing more important than our collective health. Prevention and early testing are key factors in securing a healthy future.
To review the Draft "National Plan for Action to End Disparities," provide input, or get more involved in this movement, please log onto http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.