In 2018 the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) celebrates 30 years of service. Since 1988, CDC has focused on reducing health disparities and ensuring a culturally competent public health workforce. The theme for the 30th anniversary commemoration is Mission: Possible. We believe “healthy lives for everyone” is possible and a goal that resonates in public health.
“CDC was the first operating division within the Department of Health and Human Services to establish an office of minority health in response to the 1985 Secretary’s Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health. Then CDC director, Dr. James Mason, added the Office of the Associate Director for Minority Health to his senior leadership team. He began the process of elevating awareness across CDC programs of the disproportionate burden of premature death, preventable disease, and injury experienced by communities of color in the U.S. This also started building the agency’s capacity to effectively address and reduce health disparities and increase the diversity of the CDC workforce to broaden perspectives on what is needed in surveillance, programs, policies, and other strategies to improve minority health. Over the years, the name of the office has changed some, but the mission to reduce health disparities has not changed. Much has been implemented, but there is still more to do before we achieve health equity, that is, when all people have the opportunity to attain the best health possible.”
CDC Public Health Agents of Change
A Public Health Agent of Change (PHAC) is an individual committed to the mission of “Healthy Lives for Everyone.” Whether in research or public health practice, PHACs take into account the diverse needs of the populations CDC serves with a goal of achieving health equity.
Name: Roberto “Bob” Ruiz, MPA
Title: Deputy Director for Management & Operations, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Occupation: Program Manager
Years at CDC: 18
Public Health Agent of Change Service Record:
How have you worked to advance health equity?
When I worked in the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, we ensured access to health care for all who were at risk or delivered infants with birth defects or developmental conditions. Working with the divisions to release appropriate communications and intervention strategies was probably one of the highlights of my career. In the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, our divisions worked feverously with partners and grantees to ensure equitable health access to those suffering from both intentional and unintentional injuries. Everyone should have the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Through our various programs at CDC, we strive to create the healthiest living conditions and climate for all people.
What are you currently doing or have done in your career to reduce health disparities?
In all the CIOs I have worked in, we strived for equitable treatment, employee engagement, and inclusion of all staff in carrying out our mission, program development, and creative thinking around interventions. We clearly promoted and communicated the value of having diverse perspectives and learning from each other in a respectful and professional way. When staff members feel they are part of the program, it contributes to their professional goals, human happiness, and well-being.
How can we work to make achieving health equity a Mission: Possible?
Try to measure what is working and what is not, and do more of what is working! Help staff better understand the importance of their interventions and the intersection of their work with reducing health disparities and increasing health equity. Invest in increasing health equity and reducing health disparities via our grant and cooperative agreement mechanisms. These investments help the nation’s public health system address these issues at the local level.
CDC’s Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Program provides opportunities for qualified students to gain meaningful experience in public health settings.
“Being a part of CUPS was impactful for my career in public health given the exposure the program provided. CUPS acquainted me to both work life at the CDC and other health organizations and opportunities in public health education and training. I completed CUPS/IMHOTEP directly after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, and the program allowed me to transition into the public health sphere while also continuing my career in the basic sciences. Lastly, CUPS introduced me to my place in public health by exposing me to career paths for basic scientists in public health.”
- Page last reviewed: May 4, 2018
- Page last updated: May 4, 2018
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