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Disability Inclusion as a Cornerstone for Health Equity

person in wheelchair being hugged by children

Do you know someone with a disability? That someone could be you, your child, your parent, a neighbor, or a colleague at work. One in four adults in the United States reports having some form of a disability. People with disabilities comprise a large and diverse group, which crosses age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Although having a disability is quite common, understanding how best to support and engage people with disabilities is not as widespread.

Some disabilities are ‘visible’ or able to be more easily detected because there are physical characteristics that denote a potential impairment, such as the use of a wheelchair, white cane, service animal, or cochlear implant. However, many disabilities, including those associated with mental health, autoimmune and neurological conditions, or chronic pain, can be ‘invisible’ or less apparent to those around the person with the disability. Thus, it’s important to enhance awareness and understanding about living with a disability in order to not perpetuate stigma, reinforce false stereotypes for those that do have disabilities, and promote ableist beliefs that having a disability is some type of shortcoming. Disability inclusion ensures that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else to go to school or work, attend faith-based institutions, access quality healthcare services, and public health programs, and actively engage within their communities and among their loved ones

Learn more about disability inclusion and how we can all work to ensure that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else in every aspect of society.

Health Justice As a Tool to Fight Existing and Future Pandemics

diverse group of medical professionals

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the nation’s glaring health disparities, highlighting how communities hit the hardest by the pandemic already had long suffered the impact of structural inequities. From the Syphilis Study at Tuskegee to the disproportionate impact of HIV on members of the LGBTQ+ community, the history of discrimination in public health has created valid reasons for collective mistrust. We need to restore patient trust by communicating honestly and effectively on complex medical issues and by developing the capacity to reach a broad range of patients.

Health justice is a tool we can use to meet the nation’s health equity goal. If we want everyone to have a fair opportunity to achieve health, we must address the harms of the past while looking ahead to what is now possible in public health.

Read the full blog post to learn more about the importance of health justice.

Addressing the Well-Being of the Intensive Care Unit Team

group of medical professionals

The Well-Being Gap Analysis Toolkit was developed to engage all members of intensive care unit (ICU) multi-professional teams with ways to support self-care and clinician well-being and promote optimum collaboration among ICU team members. The Toolkit provides guidance and best practices for when the physical and mental health of clinicians may be jeopardized by environmental stressors in the ICU. Areas addressed include:

  • Workload and job demands
  • Efficiency and resources
  • Control and flexibility
  • Work-life integration
  • Social support and community at work
  • Organizational culture and values
  • Meaning in work
  • Ethical community

More resources can be found on the Society of Critical Care Medicine webpage.

Building Trust and Increasing Vaccine Equity in Hispanic and Latino Communities

UnidosUS volunteer provides woman with an informational brochure

CDC’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity (P4VE) program, UnidosUS, is working with their partners across the United States through their Esperanza Hope for All initiative to help inform communities, fight misinformation, and build trust in Hispanic and Latino communities throughout the United States. UnidosUS and its partners achieve this through directly engaging with Hispanic and Latino communities on social and digital media channels, radio, TV, ad buys, and in-person events.

UnidosUS’ work with social media partners has helped to deepen community ties, provide trusted sources of health information, and change perceptions of COVID-19 and flu vaccines through peer-to-peer interaction.

Learn more about the UnidosUS initiative here.

Using Faith-based Initiatives to Increase Vaccination Coverage among African Americans

vaccinated family

Through CDC’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity (P4VE) program, the Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) works with member denominations and partners across the U.S. through their Mobilizing the African-American Community to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy: Trusted Voices, Trusted Content, Trusted Spaces initiative to increase vaccine uptake, reduce vaccine hesitancy, and train trusted messengers in African American communities.

This program leverages the trust and influence of faith leaders and high-profile influencers in major cities, rural and remote areas to champion vaccine adoption, dispel myths about vaccines, disseminate accurate and culturally specific information, increase access to vaccines, motivate communities to get vaccinated and increase faith in the medical community.

Learn more about the early impact and lessons learned from this initiative.

Baking Health Equity into NOFOs

Celebrating 35 Years of Baking Health Equity into Public Health

In honor of this year’s National Minority Health Month theme, Better Health Through Better Understanding, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) highlighted some federal partners who are working to address health disparities through culturally and linguistically competent healthcare services, information, and resources on the OMH Blog for Health Equity.

In a recent blog in this series, Grace Liggett, MPH, Health Communication Specialist at CDC, highlights CDC’s Office of Health Equity (OHE) work to find opportunities to incorporate health equity into all aspects of the agency – from science and interventions to partnerships and their workforce. OHE collaborates across the agency to help CDC programs incorporate health equity into their Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs).

Read more on the OMH Blog for Health Equity.

NIH-funded Study Highlights the Financial Toll of Health Disparities in the United States

Stethoscope with dollars

New research shows that the economic burden of health disparities in the United States remains unacceptably high. The study, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health, revealed that in 2018, racial and ethnic health disparities cost the U.S. economy $451 billion, a 41% increase from the previous estimate of $320 billion in 2014. The study also finds that the total burden of education-related health disparities for persons with less than a college degree in 2018 reached $978 billion, about two times greater than the annual growth rate of the U.S. economy in 2018.

This study is the first to estimate the total economic burden of health disparities for five racial and ethnic minority groups nationally and for all 50 states and the District of Columbia using a health equity approach. The health equity approach set aspirational health goals that all populations can strive for derived from the Healthy People 2030 goals. It establishes a single standard that can be applied to the nation and each state, and for all racial, ethnic, and educational groups. It is also the first study to estimate the economic burden of health disparities by educational levels as a marker of socioeconomic status.

Learn more about the economic burden of health disparities.

New Healthy People Infographics: Social Determinants of Health Literature Summaries

Social Determinates of Health

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion is pleased to share 5 new social determinants of health (SDOH) infographics. Each infographic covers 1 of the following topics:

  • Employment
  • Early childhood development and education
  • Access to health services
  • Access to foods that support healthy dietary patterns
  • Civic participation

These SDOH infographics illustrate how social determinants can influence health outcomes. Each SDOH infographic represents a single example from each of the 5 domains of the social determinants of health: Economic Stability, Education Access and Quality, Health Care Access and Quality, Neighborhood and Built Environment, and Social and Community Context.

Please visit the Healthy People 2030 website to download the infographics, print them, or share them with your networks.

Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool

colorful image of the U.S.

Chronic diseases pose a significant problem in the U.S. resulting in substantial morbidity, mortality, disability, and cost. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) designed the Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool to identify areas of disparities between subgroups of Medicare enrollees (e.g., racial and ethnic minority groups) in health outcomes, utilization, and spending. It is an excellent starting point to understand and investigate geographic and racial and ethnic differences in health outcomes. This information may be used to inform policy decisions and to target populations and geographies for potential interventions.

Visit the MMD tool website and learn more about how to use it.

HHS Releases Report to Increase Language Access for Persons with Limited English Proficiency

young man explaining book to older Hispanic man

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a report summarizing the progress the Department has made on improving the provision of meaningful access to language assistance services to persons with limited English proficiency (LEP). The report also identifies steps to continue and strengthen this work across HHS moving forward.

This first annual report summarizes the Department’s progress to date and charts a course to increase meaningful language access across the Department. Effective communication is critical in health care and human services, where miscommunication may lead to misdiagnosis, improper or delayed medical treatment, and barriers to necessary services and programs.

Read about how the HHS has worked to improve meaningful access to language assistance services.

Empowering the Next Generation: Public Health Youth Ambassadors Leading the Charge for Health Literacy

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health ADML Levine meets with PHYAs

Health literacy – the ability to find and understand health information so a person can make informed health decisions – is a cornerstone for better health outcomes. Recent COVID-19 pandemic studies have shown a direct relationship between racial and ethnic health disparities, low health literacy, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and mistrust in the health system. These factors have increased COVID-19 cases and death rates among racial and ethnic minorities, including Black, African American, and Hispanic/Latino populations. Building health literacy can improve outcomes, and one key to doing so is empowering a corps of trusted messengers who can help others better understand health information by making it culturally and linguistically appropriate.

As part of the two-year Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 (AHL) initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), 73 local governments across the country are seeking to demonstrate culturally and linguistically appropriate strategies that improve health literacy around COVID-19 in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The Public Health Youth Ambassador (PHYA) program is one of the Stronger key strategies to increase health literacy among high school students of color by training them as community health workers. Students participating in the PHYA program are empowered as trusted messengers of health information in their families and communities.

Learn more information about how PHYA is leading the charge for health literacy.

Preventing Chronic Diseases Releases New Collection on Combating Racism

Racism is a Public Health Crisis. Preventing Chronic Disease Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy. Combating Racism Through Research, Training, Practice, and Public Health Policies.

In April 2021, CDC declared racism a public health threat, identifying it as one of the fundamental drivers of health inequities. There is a need to expand research and implement multicomponent ways of combating racism that contribute to the persistence of racial inequities around the world. The Preventing Chronic Disease (PCD) latest collection, “,” is a special compilation of articles capturing insights on roles and actions taken in public health, medicine, and policy to combat racism as a public health threat

Read each article in this special collection on the journal’s website.

New Resources for Advancing Equity for AA & NH/PI Communities in COVID-19 Response Efforts

New Resources for Advancing Equity for AA - NH/PI Communities in COVID-19 Response Efforts

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NH/PI) communities in the United States—including South Asian and Southeast Asian communities— faced increased xenophobia, religious discrimination, racism, and violence. While the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has ended, response and recovery efforts must continue to meet the needs of diverse communities.

In the latest post on the OMH Blog for Health Equity, Juliet Bui, Director of the Division of Policy and Data for the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH), highlights OMH’s efforts to develop guidance on best practices that advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity toward AA and NH/PI communities in the context of the federal COVID-19 response.

Read more on the OMH Blog for Health Equity.