Minorities' health focus of new state office
Share with others:
State officials outlined plans yesterday for a new office dedicated to eliminating health disparities among minorities and other groups.
The state Department of Health's Office of Health Equity will collaborate with state agencies, academic institutions and community groups to improve the health status of racial minorities and other groups, Dr. Calvin Johnson, the state health secretary, said at a news conference at the Kingsley Association in Larimer.
The state will use funds from a federal grant to hire a director for the office, which will be located in the health department's Bureau of Health Planning, Dr. Johnson said.
Some Pennsylvania residents are affected by "a significant differential in access to health care, or even knowledge about health care," Gov. Ed Rendell said yesterday following an appearance at Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland.
Compared to white residents, blacks and Hispanics in Pennsylvania are more likely to die from homicide, certain cancers or other diseases.
Black residents also are more likely than whites to smoke, be overweight, or have asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.
Measures that can reduce health disparities include broadening access to quality health care, increasing the cultural competency of health care providers and improving the environments where minorities and others reside, said Dr. Judith Long, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and an investigator for the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion.
The new office will not limit its work to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, Dr. Johnson said, noting that it will also focus on disparities in geographic areas and among certain socioeconomic groups.
State Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins, noted that people who live in Braddock are about twice as likely as other Allegheny County residents to suffer from asthma or diabetes.
At his request, the House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing yesterday at UPMC Braddock that focused in part on health disparities.
The creation of the office was announced earlier this week.
About 35 other states also have offices focusing on health disparities, according to Dr. Johnson.
First Published April 20, 2006 12:00 am