April is Minority Health Month

State Health Department Takes a Multi-Targeted Approach to Reduce Health Disparities

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 15, 2013) – In observance of National Minority Health Month, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., highlighted efforts by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to expand access to health care for all New Yorkers and reduce health disparities.

"Every New Yorker should have access to quality health care, yet many still face barriers to receiving the care they need and deserve," Commissioner Shah said. "The State Health Department is committed to eliminating these barriers and providing preventive care and critical resources to improve health outcomes, with specific attention on underserved populations."

DOH has implemented an Executive Order issued by Governor Cuomo that requires all state agencies to provide free translation and interpretation services. This is critical to ensuring that non-English speaking residents are able to fully access the health care and services they need.

In addition, DOH is combating health disparities through multiple efforts, including:

  • Expanding the scope of the Office of Minority Health to become the Office of Health Disparities Prevention, charged with serving as a statewide resource for effecting the elimination of health disparities across all impacted populations by working collaboratively with government systems, public and private partners, communities and individuals.
  • The 2013-17 Prevention Agenda, a five-year plan that serves as a blueprint to improve the health of all New Yorkers. The Prevention Agenda establishes specific targets to address health disparities, including: reducing the rates of premature deaths and preventable hospitalizations among African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos, and increasing the number of African American/Black adults with health care plans who maintain good blood pressure and blood sugar control. (http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/prevention_agenda/2013-2017/)
  • Addressing childhood obesity, one of the priorities of the Prevention Agenda. DOH has created a Commissioner's Pediatric Obesity Workgroup to develop effective, evidence-based strategies to help children achieve and maintain healthy weights. In addition, New York received federal approval to provide breastfeeding and lactation counseling to help reduce childhood obesity, which disproportionately affects Hispanics/Latinos.
  • A special Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Work Group was created to review health disparity data and make recommendations to address specific concerns. The Health Disparities Work Group's final report and recommendations were released in October 2011, and many of the initiatives are moving forward, including Medicaid reimbursement for translation in hospital inpatient and outpatient settings, collection of more granular race/ethnicity data and initiatives to demonstrate effective use of Health Information Technology (HIT) to improve care delivery for women and infants. (The Work Group's Final Report is posted at: http://www.health.ny.gov/health_care/medicaid/redesign/health_disparities_workgroup.htm)
  • New York's Health Benefit Exchange, established under Executive Order, is projected to assist more than one million people who currently lack health insurance to obtain affordable coverage. A broad-based marketing and outreach campaignwill target underserved populations. This campaign, in conjunction with in-person assistors and navigators, will help individuals, families and small businesses understand their options, enroll ininsurance plans or Medicaid, and obtain federal tax credits if they are eligible. Information will be culturally and linguistically appropriate, for those using the Exchange, including individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals with disabilities. The enrollment process begins on October 1, 2013, with health plan coverage through the Exchange beginning on January 1, 2014. (For more information, visit: http://www.healthbenefitexchange.ny.gov/)
  • DOH's Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Prevention and the University at Albany School of Public Health, are conducting a New York State Media and Technology Use Survey focused on rural and Hispanic/Latino residents statewide. The project goal is to collect and analyze data about media and technology use patterns to receive health information, and to gauge attitudes about the credibility of these health information sources. The data will inform program planning and health information dissemination techniques, such as web site design, to improve key health messaging.

For additional information about the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparity Prevention, visit the DOH web page at: http://www.health.ny.gov/community/minority/