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Eliminate Health Disparities

Race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sex, age, mental health, substance abuse, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, geographic location, and other characteristics historically linked to exclusion or discrimination have been shown to influence health status.  Racial and ethnic minorities and those with lower socioeconomic status are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy, are more likely to suffer from serious illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, HIV, or chronic viral hepatitis, and are less likely to have access to quality health care, which may result in poor health outcomes, such as maternal and infant mortality.  HHS is dedicated to improving the health of all people and is developing policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity.

Achieve Health Equity

Through the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, HHS has outlined goals and actions it will pursue to eliminate health disparities.  To ensure access to primary and coordinated care, HHS is taking action to help increase the proportion of persons with a usual primary care provider and to increase the number of patient-centered medical homes that provide comprehensive and coordinated primary care. HHS also is supporting environments that promote healthy behaviors to prevent and control chronic diseases and their risk factors, with an emphasis on strengthening community-based approaches. Because of the Affordable Care Act, community-based programs are able to invest in strategies to reduce disparities that exist across racial, ethnic, social, economic, and geographic groups.  HHS is funding new and existing community health centers, which provide services to many racial and ethnic minority populations.  In addition, HHS continues to identify and address adverse human health and environmental effects that are disproportionately experienced by minority and low-income populations and tribes.

Ensure Access to Quality, Culturally Competent Care for Vulnerable Populations

HHS is working to improve the cultural competence and diversity of the health care workforce, as well as address disparities in access to health care.  HHS is expanding the primary care workforce and encouraging health care professionals to practice in health shortage areas through the National Health Service Corps.

HHS is increasing the number of students from populations underrepresented in the health professions, including the behavioral health professions, and supporting navigators, application assistants, and community health workers to help people better access insurance coverage and health care, including individuals with limited English proficiency.

HHS provides outreach, training, and guidance to health and human services providers, consumers, and interest groups to support equal access to quality and culturally competent care, including language access services for individuals with limited English proficiency, and auxiliary aids and services for individuals with disabilities.  HHS also pursues vigorous enforcement actions and obtains substantive policy changes and other forms of relief to remedy individual and systemic barriers that deny access to quality care for vulnerable populations. The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy offers professionals strategies for improving the health literacy for all Americans.

Improve Data Collection and Measurement

HHS is improving the monitoring and collection of health data by race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, socioeconomic factors, and disability status.  These efforts are helping researchers, policy makers, health providers and advocates to identify and address health disparities afflicting vulnerable communities.  Better data can help researchers understand and can help programs work to eliminate health disparities, by helping to identify disease trends in affected populations and areas of increased need, thereby allowing HHS and its state and local public health partners to better target their responses to health inequities.