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The Test of Progress: Improving the Health Status of Racial and Ethnic Minorities


Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Charles B. Rangel issued he following statement on National Minority Health Month:

"This month, as we observe National Minority Health Month, we celebrate our progress and accomplishments in addressing health inequities, health inequalities and health disparities that occur by gender, race or ethnicity, education or income, disability, or living in various geographic localities.

Recognizing that low-income Americans, racial and ethnic minorities, and other underserved populations often have higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options, and reduced access to care, we also celebrate the third anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) signed by the President three years ago. As the proud sponsor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law is certainly a testament to our progress as it challenged the status quo of decades of policies that made health care inaccessible and unaffordable for many. The progress made by the Affordable Care Act demonstrates positive outcomes in the reduction of health disparities, lower health care costs, investments in prevention and wellness and gains in individual and family control over their own care. Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of vulnerable and underserved individuals and communities in America will now have access to new treatments and important preventive services.

The social and economic beginnings of health inequity have been well-documented since the industrial revolution in the 1840s. While experts agree that reducing inequities in health is both a moral and an ethical issue, I believe that it is also an issue of social justice. Social justice is a matter of life and death. It affects the way people live and can determine their chances of becoming ill, contracting disease or early death.

This year's theme for National Minority Health Month, Advance Health Equity Now: Uniting Our Communities to Bring Health Care Coverage to All, is a clarion call for action and advocacy to encourage healthy behaviors and healthy choices, invest in prevention, fund critical medical research, and promote policies that provide opportunities for good health. Understanding the factors associated with health and wellness, including the effects of class, race, and ethnicity, is critical to reducing and eliminating health inequities.

Thanks to the forward-thinking and forward-actions of the Department of Health and Human Services Disparities Action Plan which builds on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act and is aligned with programs and initiatives such as Healthy People 2020, the First Lady's Let's Move initiative, the President's National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the Office of Minority Health and The National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities, the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities is much improved today.

Much progress has been made in reducing health disparities in our nation. I wish to thank the National Minority Quality Forum, which has been at the forefront of improving the health of America's most vulnerable communities that bear a disproportionate burden of illness and premature death. I applaud their efforts to save lives and to support national objectives that will improve health for society as a whole and to eliminate health disparities between economic and ethnic groups.

It is said that the choices people make are largely the choices that they have. Continued progress to eliminate health disparities is more than just having good health care and developing healthy behaviors. It is also about our ability to maintain and sustain the health of individuals and communities by making sure that we are providing abundant choices and helping people make the best decisions they can for their lives and those of their families.

As a Congressman, I commit to a continued legacy of addressing racial and ethnic disparities by lifting up important social challenges, alleviating poverty and disease and making sure that every American has the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health."

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