Spring 2020

A quarterly e-newsletter in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) shares news, perspectives and progress in the science and practice of health equity.

Leandris Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA

Director, Office of Minority Health & Health Equity (OMHHE)

Welcome to Health Equity Matters, an electronic newsletter intended to promote awareness of minority health and health equity work at CDC and in the broader public health community, support the achievement of our goal to eliminate health disparities, improve women’s health, support diversity and inclusion in the public health workforce, and foster ongoing communication and collaboration with our partners and the public.

For the first time, I am writing the introduction to Health Equity Matters from my home.  I along with colleagues and neighbors are working from home to minimize exposures to COVID-19. We are all in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, and the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity is collaborating internally and externally to support CDC’s COVID-19 response.  The last few weeks have amplified my awareness of how connected we are to each other socially, economically, and medically.  This is a moment when our mantra – “health equity is good for everybody” – has particular purchase. As I follow media coverage of the pandemic and engage with family and friends in conversations about safety, I find we are becoming less concerned about routine matters that would normally consume us and more concerned about people who are on the frontlines of COVID-19.  Today, we honor healthcare workers and their families, all first responders, persons who work in nursing homes and day care centers, cashiers in local supermarkets, and all volunteers who reach outside their homes to provide food and other life-giving resources to those who need them. We are also grateful for government officials who are working 24/7 to make difficult, but lifesaving decisions in the interest of counties, cities, states, and the nation.

This issue of Health Equity Matters provides information and links to important resources on COVID-19, and we share recent data and other initiatives related to physical activity, maternal health, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s Disease, to name a few.  You will be introduced to our new deputy director for the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity – Dr. Jeffrey Hall, and we also feature one of our nation’s Health Equity Champions – Dr. Jewel Mullen, Associate Dean of Health Equity at the University of Texas at Austin, Dell Medical School.  You will learn about some of Dr. Mullen’s decorated career in public health and medicine and see how throughout her career she has championed in word and in deed the benefits of health equity.  I have known Dr. Mullen for just over 5 years, and I have found her to be a thoughtful, brilliant, and strategic changemaker whose leadership is much needed and greatly valued. Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Mullen!

One of the early highlights for me this year was the invitation to keynote the Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Equity Symposium sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.  This was a special invitation for me for several reasons, but I was most excited to become acquainted with the work and commitment of the Perelman School of Medicine to address health disparities. I met faculty, residents and post docs who are passionate about health equity, and I was honored to be invited by Dr. Eve Higginbotham, Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity and to be welcomed by Dr. J. Larry Jameson, Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine – the nation’s oldest medical school. I am inspired by their leadership and engagement with issues of health care inequity.  Penn along with other schools of medicine across the U.S. have taken up the charge to confront and overcome health care inequities.  We salute you.

In closing, so many events of this year remind me of a quote by President Harry Truman – “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”  We are seeing the sacrifice, courage and skills of our nation’s public health and healthcare workforce join together to make things better.  Let’s do our part by following their guidance, and as much as possible, keep each other safe.

Leandris C. Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA
Director, Office of Minority Health & Health Equity (OMHHE)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Page last reviewed: April 3, 2020