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April is Minority Health Month

April is Minority Health Month!

Evolution of Minority Health in America

US Gov

1787 ~ Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution
Established a government to government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes which has been given form and substance by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. Out of this grew the provision of health services to members of federally-recognized tribes.

1832 ~ 1st Congressional Appropriation specifically for Indian health care.

US Gov

1849 ~ Indian health care passed from the military & missionaries to civilian control when the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was transferred from the War Department to the newly formed Department of the Interior.

The Philadelphia Negro

1899 ~ W.E.B. Dubois, "The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study"
A sociological study of Negroes including health.

In "The Philadelphia Negro", Dubois illustrates that social problems that African Americans face were not due to some “natural” inferiority, but to white prejudice. The text includes a detailed chapter on “The Health of Negroes” along with chapters on marital status, migration history, education and illiteracy, occupation, family, church and other social organizations, crime, poverty, the environment and voting.

DuBois recognized that health is inextricable bound to the total human condition. He believed that the elimination of white prejudice would create more equality between blacks and whites. Dubois strived to gain equal treatment for African Americans in a society dominated by whites and to dispel through research what he believed was the myth of racial inferiority.

Booker T. Washington

1915 ~ Booker T. Washington "National Negro Health Week"
Observed for the first time in April 1915, this evolved into the Minority Health Month we celebrate today.

The founder of Tuskegee Institute, Washington viewed the poor health status of Black Americans as an obstacle to economic progress. In 1914, as a result of the collective and individual efforts of African-American leaders who recognized the link between health, and social and economic well being, Dr. Booker T. Washington initiated Negro Health Improvement Week, which evolved into National Negro Health Week and the National Negro Health Movement.

The first National Negro Health Week was recognized in April 1915. National Negro Health Week was sustained and flourished by the broad-based participation of a multitude of organizations: schools, churches, businesses and worksites, local health departments, professional associations, the media, and civic groups. This combination of governmental support, collaboration among a multitude of organizations, and freedom to develop a campaign appropriate to individual communities suggests a model for community-based public health today.

In addition, Washington starts the National Medical Association, National Bar Association, National Nurses Association, and others.

1926 ~ Officers for the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS) were first assigned to Indian health programs, boosting BIA health care services.

1932 ~ The Department of Health, Education and Welfare
established the Office of Negro Health Work

1954 ~ Transfer Act moved responsibility for Indan health to the Public Health Service (PHS), which was a division of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

IHS Logo

1955 ~ Establishment of the Indian Health Services (IHS)
Created as an agency in the US Public Health Service, IHS is the principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people, providing a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 1.9 million American Indians & Alaska Natives who belong to 564 federally recognized tribes in 35 states.

1962 ~ Simpkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital
challenges "separate but equal" practices in hospitals

1966 ~ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. plans direct action
against the city of Chicago's hospitals to dramatize the
problem of racial discrimination in health care

1975 ~ The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (PL 93-638) strengthened tribal sovereignty over health care.


1976 ~ The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA)
The IHCIA, along with the Snyder Act, serve as the statutory foundation of the government’s responsibility to provide health care. The IHCIA clearly acknowledged the legal and moral responsibility for providing the “highest possible health status to Indians…with all the resources necessary to effect that policy.

HHS Logo

1985 ~ Report of the HHS Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health (Heckler-Malone)
Often referred to as the Heckler Report, this document identified the continuing existence of health disparities and clearly established that a disparity in health status existed between the majority and minority populations in the United States. The minority population was defined as: African Americans, Latino/ Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and Native American Indians. The Report stated: " Despite the unprecedented explosion in scientific knowledge and the phenomenal capacity of medicine to diagnose, treat and cure disease, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and those of Asian/Pacific Islander heritage have not benefited fully or equitably from the fruits of science or from those systems responsible for translating and using health sciences technology."

1986 ~ Establishment of the Federal Office of Minority Health
The HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) was created in 1986 and is one of the most significant outcomes of the 1985 Secretary's Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health. The creation of the office lent itself to the emergence of minority heatlh disparities as an issue of National significance. The Office is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.

1988 ~ Establishment of the CDC Office of Minority Health
The CDC Office of Minority Health (OMH) was created August 8, 1988 as a small coordination office, established by the CDC Director.

Trends in Indian Health

1993 ~ Indian Health Service (IHS) publication
"Trends in Indian Health"

The Report presented tables and charts describing Indian Health Service (IHS) programs and American Indian/Alaska Native health status in several categories, including IHS structure, AI/AN demography, patient care, and community health, including historical trends and comparisons to other population groups. The document is periodically updated, the latest being the 2002/2003 Trends in Indian Health edition

US Surgeon Generals Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative

1993 ~ US Surgeon General's Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative
One Voice, One Vision, Recommendations to the Surgeon General to Improve Hispanic/Lation Health

This report summarizes the most pertinent recommendations developed by the group in addressing the five critical issues in improving the health and well-being of the Hispanic/Latino community: access to health care, data collection, representation in science & health professions, a relevant and comprehensive research agenda, and health promotion & disease prevention.

Booker T. Washington

2002 ~ US Senate Hearing on Hispanic Health
Hearing before the Subcommittee on Public Health of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Examining Hispanic health problems, focusing on coverage, access, and health disparities
One Hundred Seventh Congress, second session

The Healthcare Equality and Accountability Acto fo 2003

2003 ~ The Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act of 2003
The Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act of 2003 aims to reduce the proven disparities in health care and access to medical service between minority communities and other Americans.
Members of Congress announce legislation to improve health care for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

2010 ~ The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), P.L. 111-148 Passed in March 2010, the ACA reauthorized the HHS Office of Minority Health and established Offices of Minority Health within six agencies of HHS, including CDC:

  • OMHHE Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The ACA also reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA).


2011 ~ CDC Releases First Periodic Health Disparities & Inequalities Report - United States, 2011
The 2011 CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report (CHDIR) is the first in a series of periodic, consolidated assessments that highlight health disparities by sex, race, and ethnicity, income, education, disability status and other social characteristics in the U.S. .

  • The report provides analysis and reporting of the recent trends and ongoing variations in health disparities and inequalities in selected social and health indicators, both of which are important steps in encouraging actions and facilitating accountability to reduce modifiable disparities by using interventions that are effective and scalable.
  • The report addresses disparities in health-care access, exposure to environmental hazards, mortality, morbidity, behavioral risk factors, disability status, and social determinants of health at the national level.

Poster - April is Minority Health Month, A Look Back

Details highlights on the history of Minority Health in America

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More Information

For More Information on April's Minority Health Month Observance at CDC and HHS, please see

April is Minority Health Month!

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