PHILADELPHIA, PA - Focusing on the disparities in the quality of health care across demographic groups, the Fourth Annual National Conference on Health Disparities brought together White House officials and national and local healthcare executives to address a series of key questions about non-medical determinants of health quality and to recommend strategies to bring more equitable healthcare access to the underserved. The determinants discussed at the four-day-long conference, which began November 10, 2010 and concluded Saturday, November 13, 2010, included education levels, health literacy, poverty, public safety, community design, access to care, environmental quality and personal, government and corporate responsibility.
The conference was chronicled by a diverse group of more than 30 students from six colleges and universities, who posted daily blog accounts of their experiences and perceptions leading up to, and during, the conference.
Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council for the Obama Administration, delivered the luncheon keynote on Thursday, November 11, and addressed the issue of preventive care and how the new healthcare reform policies will ensure access to all Americans. Barnes noted, “When it comes to the debate about healthcare access and disparities among Americans, sometimes the ‘thing’ isn’t the ‘thing.’ Sometimes, the underlying issues are what need to be addressed, as opposed to the concept, as a whole. In order to better our circumstances within the grossly affected populations, as it relates to health, we must address and build partnerships in bettering food/consumption services, and neighborhood development and design, while building ‘walkable’ communities and encouraging physical activity.”
In her remarks, Barnes also focused attention on the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, managed by The Food Trust, The Reinvestment Fund and the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, and their significant strides in combating obesity and improving food access for all Pennsylvanians. As of June 2010, the Fresh Food Financing Initiative has provided funding for 88 fresh-food retail projects in 34 Pennsylvania counties, creating or preserving more than 5,000 jobs.
Hon. James E. Clyburn, House Majority Whip, U.S. Congress, South Carolina, spoke on Friday, November 12, and began his remarks by describing the recently passed Health Reform Bill as “the Civil Rights issue of the 21st century." Clyburn claimed that the new law will end discriminatory practices against people with pre-existing conditions and projected that it will reduce the federal deficit by $123 billion in its first ten years, and by $1.23 trillion, by year twenty.
Clyburn said, “The Health Reform Bill has been demonized by the right wing, and in order for there to be a change in policy, and coverage for all Americans, it is critical we tell the truth about the legislation, because all of us benefit from its provisions."
Later in the day, the panel titled “Using public and private equity investment to strengthen and sustain our communities: Can we strategically invest our way out of health disparity and into health equity?" engaged healthcare professionals, investment decision-makers, elected officials and community activists from across the country in discussing the macro- and micro-economic impact of investing in healthcare delivery, including expectations of better outcomes, safety, service and lower costs.
Dr. Denis Cortese, director, Arizona State University, Health Care Delivery and Policy Program, Tempe, AZ, spoke of investment beginning with a new vision for healthcare; looking at people as “assets” and evaluating the model’s effectiveness by measuring outcomes through long-term return on investment. Cortese divulged: “Investment opportunities for healthcare begin with a new model of care, education, social circumstance and research in genetics and genomics. In Philadelphia, if one community agrees to engage the sickest people, to move away from the typical insurance model, and to work with this segment in their homes, we would see the greatest return on our investment. It has proved to be a worthwhile effort in other areas of the world.” He continued, “Investment in community-based initiatives is the key to change.”
The conference's final roundtable discussion engaged Congressional leaders, including Hon. Donna Christensen, MD, US Congress, US Virgin Islands; Hon. Michael Honda, chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Fifteenth District, California; Hon. Chaka Fattah, chair, Congressional Urban Caucus, U.S. Congress, Second District, Pennsylvania and Hon. Donald Payne, U.S. Congress, Tenth District, New Jersey. Key points from their discussion included the need to protect the Health Reform Bill from the new Republican Congressional majority, which is threatening to repeal the legislation; the need to view healthcare as a right and to view health equity as a central goal of the reform process; the need to create school-based health centers; and the need for all government agencies to partner together to ensure that the national health policy is universally adopted.
About the Fourth National Conference on Healthcare Disparities
The Fourth National Conference on Health Disparities has been organized in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust and the Tri-Caucus Health Taskforce chairs.
The event is being supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Medical University of South Carolina, AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, The Coca Cola Company, Novo Nordisk, Temple University Health System, Office of Minority Health, PhRMA, Morehouse School of Medicine, Eli Lilly, Drexel School of Public Health, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Lincoln University.
Co-Supporters include: Alliance for Digital Equality, American Kidney Fund, Cheney University, Davita, Health Partners, Infosys, Jefferson Health System, Mercy Health System, Orasure Technologies, Penn School of Nursing, UnitedHealth Group, Verizon Wireless and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.