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Observances ~ February
African American History Month

African American History Month Feature

To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week. The first celebration occurred on Feb. 12, 1926. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month.

This year's theme is "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture“. As we mark National African American History Month, we celebrate giants of the civil rights movement and countless other men and women whose names are etched in the hearts of their loved ones and the cornerstones of the country they helped to change.

The year 2015 marks the 30th Anniversary of the 1985 Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, a landmark eight-volume report, known as the Heckler Report, 30th Anniversary of the Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black & Minority Health, The Heckler Report documenting the extent of health disparities affecting Americans of color and recommending action steps for the nation to address these disparities. Both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC’s Offices of Minority Health were set up in response to the report.

After years of observing poorer health for Blacks and other minorities in comparison to Whites, the Secretary of HHS, Margaret Heckler, commissioned a powerful task force in 1984 to describe these health results more fully and to consider what the federal government could do to address them. The Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health surveyed HHS agencies to identify what they were already doing to focus on improving the health of minority populations and consulted with outside experts in minority health to gain a better understanding of the factors affecting disease risk and improvement of health for minorities. The Secretary released the Task Force’s report in October, 1985, making this the first time that the federal government provided a national picture of the health of racial and ethnic minorities.

The Task Force defined minorities as Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. The Task Force paid particular attention to the higher death rates of Blacks and other minorities in comparison to Whites; noting that there were 59,000 greater deaths for Blacks per year, higher than for any other racial or ethnic group.

The Secretary established in that same year the Office of Minority Affairs within HHS to coordinate the implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. Since the publication of the Heckler Report, we are better able to describe more fully the health of all Americans.

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