By Dr. J. Nadine Gracia
WASHINGTON (April 25, 2012) — During April, we celebrate National Minority Health Month by reflecting on the progress that has been achieved in reducing racial and ethnic health disparities.
As we continue to move forward toward health equity, we recognize that this has truly been a year of unprecedented opportunity for minority populations.
The Affordable Care Act — the landmark health care law signed by President Obama two years ago — is generating new opportunities in the national effort to eliminate health disparities.
The new health care law gives Americans the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they get sick or change jobs:
• Children can no longer be denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition, such as asthma or a heart defect, and in 2014, insurance companies will be banned from discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
• An additional 2.5 million young adults have gained health coverage because they can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, including 97,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The law makes significant investments in funding community health centers and increasing the number of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers in underserved communities.
And, in addition to these items, the law calls for the development of new data collection standards in order to better understand the diversity of the populations we serve. The standards have been developed for HHS-sponsored population health surveys and will expand Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) categories – Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, and other Pacific Islanders. Commenting on the importance of research and data collection, President Obama said that improved insight into Asian Americans’ and Pacific Islanders’ diverse health needs will help ensure that no one is invisible to their government.
We built on the Affordable Care Act with the release of the the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Partnership for Action’s National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity. We also celebrated the release of the first-ever HHS Plan for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health which elevated Asian American and Pacific Islander health issues across the Department.
It’s a remarkable moment of opportunity. Conversations about health equity are occurring across the country and strengthened by community support across the nation.
In that spirit, we have designated the theme for this year’s Minority Health Month to be Health Equity Can’t Wait: Act Now in Your CommUNITY! – a call to action for stakeholders everywhere, because this chance to make progress and change history won’t wait. There are many things that people can do to celebrate National Minority Health month, including participating in local community events across the country or taking our online pledge and adding your voice to others around the country that are working to achieve health equity.
To find out more about National Minority Health Month; the HHS Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Plan; and other initiatives on health equity, visit http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov.
Dr. J. Nadine Gracia serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health (Acting) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.