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Report: Minorities Stand To Gain In Health Reform

WASHINGTON – The new health care reform law establishes a strong foundation for eliminating persistent racial disparities in the U.S. health system, but more needs to be done to expand opportunities for good health for all, according to a report released by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the National Health Policy Training Alliance for Communities of Color.

The report, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010:  Advancing Health Equity for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Populations, identifies areas where the new law may significantly improve health and health care access and quality and reduce health inequities, as well as areas where more work is needed to fully eliminate inequities.
 
In it, the authors, Dr. Dennis Andrulis of the Texas Health Institute (THI) and an Associate Professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Nadia Siddiqui of THI, Jonathan Purtle of Drexel University School of Public Health, and Dr. Lisa Duchon of Health Management Associates, said the new law “has the potential to seed, promote and guide diversity initiatives in this country for decades to come.”
 
In earlier reports, the Joint Center has pointed to racial and ethnic health inequities that are present in the form of higher rates of infant mortality, disease and disability, and premature mortality among some racial and ethnic minorities relative to national averages. A large and growing body of scientific research demonstrates that the causes of these inequities are linked to differences in socioeconomic status, environmental risks and exposures, occupational exposures, health behaviors, and access to health care.
 
This new report analyzes the health reform law for its potential to address these inequities.  It examines both the general provisions of the law, such as health insurance expansions and reforms, as well as equity-specific provisions, such as efforts to improve federal health data collection and improve both the diversity, cultural and linguistic competence of the health workforce.

“The breadth of the health care reform law offers an unprecedented opportunity to reduce racial and ethnic inequities. However, its depth is still uncertain,” said Dr. Andrulis.  “With additional specificity and appropriations, the law will make enormous strides to improve timely access to high-quality health care, free from barriers related to culture, language, income and geography. The law will also go a long way toward ensuring that many populations receive culturally-appropriate health information, and that practitioners will receive appropriate training to address the needs of diverse populations. These and related provisions in the law are central and essential for promoting health equity.”

The report also pointed to provisions in the law that will increase the nation’s focus on and investment in health promotion and disease prevention.  This includes both clinical preventive services, as well as community-based primary prevention to ensure that all communities are conducive to good health.

Dr. Brian Smedley, Vice President and Director of the Joint Center Health Policy Institute, cautioned that the strengths of the new health reform law will not by themselves reduce racial inequities.   “Going forward, policymakers will have to make the reduction of health inequities a top priority in the implementation and administration of the new law, because doing so is essential to achieving its stated goals of expanding insurance coverage, improving the quality of health care, and reducing the costs of care,” he said.

“This report identifies issues that will be important for eliminating health inequities as the health reform law is implemented, and highlights questions and directions for future legislation and policy,” said Ralph B. Everett, President and CEO of the Joint Center.  


The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation’s leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. 

 
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