Winter 2019

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 C. Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA

Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Equity, CDC/ATSDR

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.

It is a rainy, cloudy, and cold winter day in Atlanta as I write the introduction for this issue of Health Equity Matters. Yet, I feel warmed by thoughts of all we have accomplished this year! 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE), and we enjoyed a variety of commemorative events and activities. We highlight a number of these events in this newsletter.

My January post in Conversations in Equity launched our yearlong celebration, and raised some important questions that we grappled with throughout this milestone year. I began the year stating, “Beyond the celebration of having persevered for 30 years, reflecting on the history of the office is an opportunity to study change that has occurred over time both within OMHHE and across CDC in reducing health disparities and pursuing health equity. We are able to put the office’s evolution in perspective and examine what makes our contributions distinctive within CDC’s comprehensive public health program.” We are still in the process of systematically capturing how the office has evolved and influenced public health efforts to improve minority health and advance health equity.  It is difficult to characterize CDC’s impact on minority health absent considerations of contributions and health equity movements instigated by the larger public health community, national organizations, academia, clinical research, and leadership from community-based organizations and institutions.  The office has had three (3) directors during this time and the leadership provided by each director was unique, but strengthened the infrastructure, identity, and value of OMHHE.

Over the past 30 years, OMHHE has provided national and global leadership as thought leaders, technical consultants, catalysts, and conveners. Established in 2005, we have successfully engaged the Health Disparities Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee to the CDC Director in creating a slate of recommendations that, when fully implemented, should significantly advance the agency’s efforts to improve minority health and health equity.  Since 2011, we have administered the CDC Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (CUPS) program sustaining the office’s long-term commitment to ensuring a diverse public health workforce.  Today, we can point to alumni of the office’s internship programs who are in key positions in federal health agencies, universities, and state and local departments of public health.  The expertise of our scientists, health communications specialists, and practitioners is widely sought by our partners, fellow federal agencies, and the public.  We published several reports describing health disparities in selected populations following appeals to our colleagues across CDC. A few examples include: Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities Among Rural Adults — United States, 2012–2015, and CDC Vital Signs reports on African American and Hispanic health.  We have also successfully convened four (4) Public Health Ethics Forums since 2015 in collaboration with the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University.  All of these activities and more engage the national centers, institutes, and offices at CDC.  Together, we are building a scientific and programmatic foundation for greater uptake of strategies that enhance cultural competence, address social determinants of health, and create a path toward achieving health equity.

In this issue of Health Equity Matters, we acknowledge the extraordinary leadership of Daniel Dawes, our Health Equity Champion!  Dawes represents a generation of public health leaders who will carry the health equity agenda forward for many years to come.  He is an accomplished visionary strategically located at Morehouse School of Medicine – one of the nation’s premiere medical school devoted to achieving health equity.

I hope this year has been as fruitful and inspiring for you as it has been for me.  On behalf of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, I wish you a happy and healthy new year!  We hope you enjoy this issue of Health Equity Matters!

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

Page last reviewed: January 8, 2019