Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
May 24, 2000
TRENTON - Making strides to identify, address and reduce or eliminate health disparities in minority populations will take the combined efforts of community leaders, policy makers and the health care community.
That is the message of participants in the State's first minority health summit held last September and is one of numerous recommendations to improve health care and outcomes for minorities made today in a report to Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant.
"Health of Minorities in New Jersey: Part 1 -- The Black Experience" brought together more than 250 health care providers, elected officials, government and community leaders to examine ways to reduce or eliminate the differences in health status -- such as higher rates of disease and shorter life spans -- between New Jersey's black and white communities. A second minority health summit, addressing the Latino experience, will convene June 2nd and 3rd, 2000.
"New Jersey has taken the lead in shining a light on the issue of health disparities," said Commissioner Grant. "These groundbreaking summits and the recommendations they produce, along with the goals outlined in our Healthy New Jersey 2010 planning document, will serve as the cornerstones to improve the health status of all state residents."
Grant said she will convene a department-wide committee to evaluate today's report and a similar document expected after the Latino health summit in June and establish best practices for department activities and the health care community at large.
Grant noted the Department of Health and Senior Services has been active in a number of important minority health issues. Chief among those efforts, the department is presently in the third phase - educating health care providers - of a two-year, $1 million black infant mortality awareness campaign known as BIBS, Black Infants, Better Survival. The department has also initiated and is supporting grass-roots education and screening programs for breast and prostate cancer in African-American communities. The Department has also initiated a cultural competency training program for its many grantees.
Julane W. Miller-Armbrister, chief executive officer of the Plainfield Health Center and chairperson of the New Jersey Office of Minority Health's Advisory Commission, said, "No one group can take on this challenge and eliminate all racial and ethnic health disparities on its own. This report is a call to action to all segments of government, the health care industry, academia, and the state's diverse community leaders to work together to ensure health status parity."
The recommendations released today address available data on minority health and data collection issues; current health disparities and programs in other states that have shown promise in addressing disparities; the impact of HIV/AIDS on the African-American community; the importance of cultural competency among health care providers and others; and the work of the Office of Minority Health.
Among the recommendation issued today were calls for:
"It's important to remember statistics reflect actual state minority residents who for too long have disproportionally experienced illness and premature death," said summit planning committee member Dr. Denise V. Rodgers, Associate Dean of Community Health for UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "We first identified disparities some 15 years ago and despite our efforts they still exist. We need to use the recommendations in this report and ensure that 15 years from now there are no health disparities."
"These recommendations are broad and to have the desired effect will require many agencies, groups and organizations to change the way they do business internally and in concert with their community partners," said Office of Minority Health Director Linda Holmes.