New York State Department of Health Celebrates Black History Month

2023 Theme: "Diversity and Strength: Our History, Our Heritage, Our Journey"

ALBANY, NY (February 8, 2023) – As Black History Month is a time to remember and celebrate the many contributions and achievements of Black Americans, the New York State Department of Health is also using it to engage and spur conversations among thousands of Department staff about health equity and removing barriers to improving health outcomes for Black communities. The commemoration of Black History Month in 2023 will have as its theme "Diversity and Strength: Our History, Our Heritage, Our Journey." There will be virtual events every Tuesday for all Department team members starting this week and running through Feb. 28, 2023. Each of these special online events will feature a range of virtual activities, such as trivia contests and roundtable conversations.

"Black Americans' health and lifespan are disproportionately impacted by social determinants of health, including lack of access to health care, not only in New York but across the country. That is why I encourage all the dedicated staff here at the Department of Health to not only celebrate and reflect during Black History Month but to help reduce health disparities faced by Black communities," Acting State Health Commissioner James McDonald said. "Under Governor Hochul's leadership, the Department is enacting transformative change to reduce barriers to care and eliminate inequities surrounding Black communities, which are often disproportionately affected by greater rates of preventable conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and maternal mortality."

To help advance health equity and remove barriers to health care, the Department has worked to:

  • Improve the health of all New Yorkers. Through the establishment of the Department's Office of Health Equity and Human Rights, under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Johanne Morne, the Department has declared an intention to continue to advance equity and address inconsistent access to social determinants of health, with a focus across all program areas is to bridge health disparities, address inequalities, and advance equitable access to treatment and care.
  • Launch a new public awareness campaign to encourage Black and Hispanic men to take a prediabetes risk test and participate in the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP). Prediabetes is a condition where a person's blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes can, however, develop into type 2 diabetes if lifestyle changes are not made.
  • Improve cancer screening rates among populations less likely to be screened. In October, the Department launched a funding opportunity to award state grants totaling $41 million to 21 organizations to continue to run the long-standing, successful New York State Cancer Services Program. The grantees will cover every county and borough in New York and will focus their efforts on individuals who lack access to services.
  • Target maternal mortality and reduce racial disparities in health outcomes through New York State's Taskforce on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes, which is a comprehensive initiative, building on the State's commitment to addressing maternal mortality across the state. The multi-pronged initiative includes efforts to review and better address maternal death and morbidity with a focus on racial disparities, expanding community outreach, and taking new actions to increase access to prenatal and perinatal care, including establishing a pilot expansion of Medicaid coverage for doulas.

"As we recognize Black History Month and celebrate the many past and present achievements of Black leaders, we must also acknowledge that racism remains a public health crisis and contributes to the persistent disparities in New York State and nationally," Deputy Commissioner Health Equity and Human Rights Johanne Morne said. "The Department's intentional actions to advance health equity and remove barriers to health care are best practices."

In October, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the New York State has doubled its investment - committing more than $2.4 million - in diversity programs managed by the Associated Medical Schools of New York to help bring more traditionally unrepresented students to the physician workforce. Funded in part through the Department, these programs are designed to encourage students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in medicine to get accepted into and complete medical school in New York.

Learn more about the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Prevention here.

For more information about the New York State Department, please visit: