Monday, February 1, 2016

Celebrating Black History Month at HHS

Office of Minority Health
J Nadine Gracia
Black History Month is a time to celebrate the many black Americans who have made an impact on our nation. It’s a reminder of how far we have come as a country, and a call for the work still ahead. 
Here at HHS, we’re working on a number of initiatives to advance health equity and bridge the gaps in health and well-being that still are too prevalent for the black community.
The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped Americans across the nation find quality, affordable health insurance, and that is, especially important for African Americans. Since the ACA has taken effect, the uninsured rate for African Americans has gone down 9.2 percentage points as 2.3 million adults have gained coverage. And 7.8 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to preventive services like obesity screening and counseling, mammograms, and blood pressure screening. 
My Brother’s Keeper
President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, including boys and young men of color. HHS, along with other federal agencies, is actively engaged in advancing the goals of My Brother’s Keeper. As one example, the HHS Office of Minority Health has partnered with the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to launch the Minority Youth Violence Prevention program. This $3 million grant program is funding nine demonstration sites across the country for new initiatives that bring law enforcement, public health, and community organizations together to reduce and prevent youth violence through a public health framework. With these types of initiatives, we can lower youth violence and improve the health of underserved communities.
Let’s Move! Child Care
Despite a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among children of preschool age over the past decade, nearly 40 percent of the children in black and Hispanic communities are overweight or obese. To combat this increasing challenge of childhood obesity, the Administration for Children and Families is promoting children’s health through the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative with a program called “Let’s Move! Child Care.” This program empowers child care and early education providers to make the positive health changes in young children that can last their whole lifetime. Of the 1.5 million children impacted by this initiative, 42 percent of them are African American.    
Early Childhood Education
HHS remains committed to high quality early childhood education to encourage healthy and enriching early experiences that children need to realize their full potential. This year alone, as part of the President’s Early Learning Initiative, the Administration for Children & Families (ACF) will award $635 million for new Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships and Early Head Start expansion to serve tens of thousands of infants and toddlers across the country. The partnerships will support working families by providing a full-day and full-year of early education, with critical comprehensive including health, developmental and behavioral screenings; higher health, safety and nutrition standards; and increased parent engagement opportunities.
The Ryan White Program
Despite the reduction in HIV diagnoses among black women between 2005 and 2014, blacks account for nearly half of new HIV infections. To combat this epidemic, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) administers the Ryan White Program that serves almost 500,000 people annually, half of them African American. This program is the largest federally-funded program that focuses exclusively on comprehensive, culturally-competent HIV/AIDS care. HHS is also supporting The White House Office of National AIDS Policy’s recently updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
HBCU Center for Excellence in Behavioral Health
Mental health and wellness are an important part of overall health and having productive lives.  Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, are trusted leaders and partners in promoting the health and well-being of minority and underserved communities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has implemented programs that work with HBCUs to promote the importance of behavioral health to students, make sure that culturally appropriate behavioral health resources are available on campus, and enhance the participation of minorities in the behavioral health professions.
At HHS, we are working to ensure that everyone has the building blocks for healthy and productive lives. We invite you to join us this month as we pay tribute to the giants whose shoulders we stand on by taking steps toward improving your health and working together to continue to build healthier communities for African Americans. For more ways to commemorate Black History Month, visit theHHS Office of Minority Health.

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