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HHS Announces Plan to End Health Disparities

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

April 8, 2011 -- Public health officials recently rolled out an initiative aimed at improving the health of minorities and erasing disparities.

The first-ever action plan was put together by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) following extended meetings and discussions with people in communities across the country. Members of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States continue to have worse health outcomes and don't get the preventive care they need, HHS officials said.

They also are more likely to suffer illnesses like diabetes or heart disease and to have problems getting health care.

That needs to end for the entire nation to advance, officials said. The plan sets an ambitious goal of a nation "free of disparities in health and health care" in its vision and purpose.

"We know the health of the individual is almost inseparable from the health of the larger community," said Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health.

Garth Graham, deputy assistant secretary for minority health, said a cost estimate for the plan was not yet available, although he said some of it could be paid for with fiscal year 2011 funding.

In connection with the announcement of the plan, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius went to East Harlem in New York City to meet with members of the community and discuss how to improve minority health.

The HHS action plan includes calls for expanding insurance coverage; setting up a new pipeline for recruiting minority undergraduates for public health careers; improving rates of childhood obesity and diseases such as asthma and cardiovascular disease; and better collection of data.

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