Monday, September 26, 2016

OMH Grantees: Accelerating Health Equity on the Front Lines

J. Nadine Gracia
Achieving a nation free of disparities in health and health care extends beyond the walls of federal offices. As we deepen our reach into this current era of public health, we step into an age of a greater understanding of the factors upon which better health is built—the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age. This knowledge underscores our goal in building stronger relationships and alliances that achieve better health outcomes for all communities by bolstering the efforts of our partners.


Take for instance Oakland, CA, where minority male youth are benefiting from one of the funding opportunities that the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) awards to develop and implement health programs and activities across the nation. Our grantee, Youth Alive, is implementing innovative community policing approaches through a public health framework that help improve the health and well-being of communities of color through the Minority Youth Violence Prevention initiative. This program, and others like it, reflects the heart of our work in strengthening the capacity of community-serving organizations in their efforts to reduce health disparities in ways that address the social determinants of health.

OMH and our partners continue to stand at the forefront of responding to the needs of the community and driving monumental advancements in programs, policies, data and research. Together, over the past 30 years we have led health equity efforts at the grassroots level and seen these efforts through from recommendation to implementation. Since 1986, our office has provided tangible support to state and territorial offices of minority health, multicultural health and health equity; community and faith-based organizations; national associations and organizations; institutions of higher education; tribes and tribal organizations; and research institutions dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities.

HHS OMH grantees are committed to developing strategies that provide minority and underrepresented students with a foundation to pursue successful careers in health professions; connect minorities and underserved populations to health insurance coverage and quality, affordable care; implement tailored state-level community interventions designed to address the most pressing disparities, including HIV/AIDS; fight against lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease that disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority populations; and many others.

The need to accelerate our efforts in innovative approaches to improve minority health remains evident by the persistent gaps in health and health care across communities of color, consequently leading to poorer health outcomes.

Most recently, OMH funded three new grant programs in 2016 totaling more than $7 million to support public health initiatives that impact lives across the nation. Through these efforts, we aim to improve health outcomes for minority and/or disadvantaged young people in transition from jail to their communities; promote healthy behaviors among minority and/or disadvantaged youth at-risk for poor health and life outcomes due to childhood trauma; and continue our work in reducing lupus-related health disparities.

We recognize the importance of partnerships with communities and organizations in closing the gap on health disparities and achieving better health. And as we support the work of these health equity champions, we also create a future where the intersection of health and social condition serves as the crucial nexus for ending health disparities in America.

J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director, Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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