WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 24, 2012) — The Department of Health and Human Services this week announced the Reducing Cancer Among Women of Color App Challenge, an initiative to motivate entrepreneurs to create a mobile device application to help underserved and minority women combat and prevent cancer.
The department also announced that it will begin a push to implement electronic health records across the country, leading to greater coordination, fewer errors and less duplication throughout the nation’s healthcare system.
The announcements from HHS followed months of advocacy by the Congressional Tri-Caucus to implement Health IT challenge grants designed to address racial and ethnic health disparities. In September 2011, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-9), CAPAC’s Healthcare Taskforce Chair, introduced H.R. 2954, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 on behalf of the Tri-Caucus. CAPAC Executive Board Member Senator Daniel K. Akaka introduced a companion bill, S. 2474 in the Senate this spring. During CAPAC’s meeting with President Obama last year, the President agreed to implement some provisions of the bill administratively, including efforts to improve outreach and adoption of Health IT resources in minority communities.
This challenge is being issued by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH). The Challenge calls for the creation of applications for mobile devices that can help minority women and their health care providers fight and prevent cancer, addressing factors that contribute to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.
Leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – composed of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) – released the following statements:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair: “I commend the Obama Administration on this important effort to address health disparities faced by minority women. This competition will harness the brightest technological innovators in our country to expand access to vital health information in different languages and culturally appropriate contexts. By implementing this critical provision of the Tri-Caucus’s Health Equity and Accountability Act, the Obama Administration is taking an important step towards reducing health disparities in minority communities and ultimately saving lives.”
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), CBC Chair: “I am pleased the Obama Administration continues to find ways to encourage innovative uses of technology to address critical issues in underserved communities across America and particularly with this initiative, among women and communities of color. Cancer continues to affect millions of women and their families, and this challenge will allow HHS to channel the energy from some of the brightest minds in our country to make information that assists with prevention and cancer care readily available. The CBC was proud to be a part of this initiative. We also thank and commend Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her leadership.”
Congressman Charles Gonzalez (TX-20), CHC Chair: “Today’s announcement will help provide critical cancer treatment and prevention information to underserved patients. Once again, this Administration has demonstrated their commitment to reducing health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities through fostering entrepreneurship and technological advancements.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-09), CAPAC Healthcare Taskforce Chair: “Today’s health IT announcement is a welcome step forward in our collective mission to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities that persists in communities of color across the country. Cancer, among other health conditions, remains widespread among women of color. I’m pleased to see the administration implement provisions of the Health Equity and Accountability Act to build on the foundation set by the Affordable Care Act to tackle disparities in health status and our health care system at all levels.”
Congresswoman Donna Christensen (VI), CBC Health Braintrust: “I am so pleased about today’s announcement from HHS, challenging technology leaders to leverage themselves to take a prominent role in efforts to reduce not only racial and ethnic, but also geographic disparities in cancer. My colleagues in the Tri-Caucus and I have long-touted health IT as an integral part of health equity strategies and I applaud HHS today for utilizing this technology to reach the women of color who are most at-risk for a late-stage cancer diagnosis that otherwise may have been prevented. This is a great effort; one that brings research, advocacy and technology to the same table around a common cause.”
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), CHC Healthcare Taskforce Chair: “We applaud the President for recognizing the opportunities that exist in expanding health IT to better address disparities in communities of color. Improving access to information technology in these communities helps level the playing field for care provision and follow-up and allows health systems to better manage those diseases that disproportionately impact minorities.”