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In 1985, The Federal Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health, the first comprehensive national minority health study published by the U.S. Public Health Services Department of Health and Human Services, documented the wide and persisting disparity in health status between minorities and Whites. Results of this study indicated six problem areas that collectively accounted for more than 80% of the excess mortality from 1979 to 1981. The six areas included cancer; cardiovascular diseases and stroke; chemical dependency; diabetes; homicides, suicides and unintentional injuries; and infant mortality. In recognition of the increasing severity of HIV/AIDS among the minority community, AIDS was added as a seventh leading health problem.
The Task Force's discussion of the causes of the discrepancy lead to the conclusion that minorities "have not benefited fully or equitably from the fruits of science or from those systems responsible for translating or using health sciences technology.
Comparisons of the findings in the 1985 report to information released in Health United States 1990 showed very little change in the health status of minority populations.
Federal health experts declare that most of the disparity is due to behavioral patterns that contribute to health status and life expectancy. These include food choices, level of exercise and/or rest, drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco use, sexual behavior, violence resulting in disabilities or homicide, injuries, particularly those involving motor vehicles; and disabilities or illnesses that cause infants death during their first year of life.
Nation-wide, reducing the discrepancy in health status between minorities and the White population has become the focus of public health efforts on both state and national levels. The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health was created in December 1985 with the charge to address historical disparities. This Office provides information and resources, funding and technical assistance to minority health entities and community-based organizations to improve health status of minority populations.
New Jersey initiated its response to the disparity between the health status of minority and White population in the late 1980's when the minority community, key legislators and the Department of Health expressed serious concerns about the growing gap in minority health status.
In June 1989, the first "Health Profile: Black and Minority Populations in New Jersey - Preliminary Report" was published. In addition, the Committee on the State of Black Health successfully lobbied and sponsored the first statewide health conference on Black and other minority populations.
In 1989 the Commissioner's Advisory Commission on Minority Health was established and charged with a) assessing the Health Profile on Minority populations; and b) advising the Commissioner of Health on improving the health of minority populations in New Jersey. Approximately one year later, the Commission was officially established under the Executive Order of Commissioner of Health.
In September 1990, through the NJDOH, Office of the Commissioner, the New Jersey Office of Minority Health was officially established.
The Advisory Commission released an Interim Report of the Commissioner's Advisory Commission on Minority Health which was published in June 1991.
The Governor signed into law P.L. 1991, Chapter 401, which permanently established the Office of Minority Health in 1992.
A departmental data subcommittee updated the "Closing the Gap: Improving the Health of New Jersey's Minority Populations," which was published in February 1993.
Since its establishment, the NJDOH, Office of Minority Health has developed activities to address many priority areas and issues related to Healthy People 2000/2010 advocated by the Federal Office of Minority Health. Specific activities of the NJDOH OMMH include, but are not limited to, the following:
- promoting community health outreach and education through partnership with community based organizations, including faith-based groups;
- assisting with policy analysis to improve health care access and services for minority populations;
- providing funding to community based organizations for community outreach;
- assisting in improving methods for collecting and reporting data on minority health;
- sponsoring annual Minority Health Month activities which includes a Governor's Proclamation declaring Minority Health Month; collaborating within the New Jersey Department of Health to develop effective outreach campaigns for public health initiatives; promoting advocacy and coalition building across state agencies that provide service to minority populations;
- coordinating the selection and supervision of comprehensive minority health fellows;
- assisting community based organizations in identifying potential funding sources and other health resources;
- assisting with development of standards for organizational and health professionals competency services;
- supporting public and professional education on minority health issues.
On August 8, 2001 A2204 was signed renaming the Office of Minority Health to the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health. The amended Bill strengthens the activities and increases the functions of the Office as follows:
- Clarifies that the population that the Office serves includes both racial and ethnic minorities and that the ultimate goal of the Office is to foster minority access to high quality health care.
- Enhances the Office's powers and duties by allowing the Office to make grants to ongoing community-based programs, as well as special projects, and extending its informational function to include development of a clearinghouse that would collate and organize minority health data by county and disseminate the data on request.
- Confers new responsibilities on the Office, including working with medical and dental schools; making recommendations on effective outreach to increase minority communities' participation, establishing an alliance with community-based agencies and evaluating minority health programs in other states for their potential replication in New Jersey.
The National Partnership for Action (to reduce health disparities) and The National Stakeholders Strategy (for achieving health equity)
- April, 2010 HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the federal government for the first time would develop a national action plan to address racial health disparities in the U.S. This was the origins of the National Partnership for Action (to end health disparities).
- In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Office of Minority Health (NOMH) launched the National Partnership for Action plan (NPA) to end health disparities by introducing the plan as its’ theme for the 2011 National Minority Health Month celebration in April.
- The NPA was introduced as a public-private initiative seeking to mobilize a nationwide, comprehensive, community-driven and sustained approach to combating health disparities and to move the nation toward achieving health equity.
- The HHS also reached out to thousands of stakeholders nationwide in 2011, for their input and formed the National Stakeholder Strategy (NSS) to achieve health equity.
- Health disparities can be defined in many ways. It is a concern on a national and local level. (As defined by the HHS) A health disparity is a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage.
- The causes of health disparities and the barriers to good health and health care are multiple and overlapping (HHS- National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, 2011). The determinants of health care can be categorized under four broadly accepted categories:
- Social determinants of health- examples include gender, socioeconomic status, employment status, educational attainment, food security status, availability of housing and transportation, racism, and health system access and quality.
- Behavioral determinants of health- examples include patterns of overweight and obesity; exercise norms; and use of illicit drugs, tobacco, or alcohol.
- Environmental determinants of health- examples include lead exposure, asthma triggers, and workplace safety factors, unsafe or polluted living conditions.
- Biological and genetic determinants of health- examples include family history of heart disease and inherited conditions such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.
- The HHS launched another initiative in 2011 with formation of its’ Regional Health Equity Councils. Each Council includes up to 35 members who possess leadership and experience in addressing health disparity elimination and the social determinants of health.
- The OMMH was nominated to serve on the Regional Health Equity Council (RHEC) for Region II in September, 2011.
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