Monday, April 09, 2007
The Disparities Action Network
On Friday, April 6, LHI hosted the meeting of the Massachusetts Disparities Action Network. This is a group convened by Critical MASS -- a statewide coalition of people and organizations committed to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities -- and Health Care for All. Information about the DAN can be found on the HCFA web site, right here.
The most important DAN activity right now is following the progress of legislation that we developed to create a new statewide Office of Health Equity, with a mandate to "coordinate all activities of the Commonwealth to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities." The office will have various resources and powers, which are described in the legislation, which has now been introduced by Rep. Byron Rushing and numerous co-sponsors in both houses. You can read the current version of the bill here. This legislation will create a new philosophy of state governance, in which all policies have to be considered in light of their impact on health equity, which is a fundamental element of social justice.
There will be a hearing on this, and related legislation, before the joint Public Health Committee, at some time in the coming weeks. We'll let you know when it is scheduled, and I hope we'll pack Gardner Auditorium and prove to the legislators that the people of Massachusetts really care about this breakthrough act -- which will establish Massachusetts as a national leader.
And, of course, LHI is proud to be a part of it.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
LHI at the New England Regional Minority Health Conference
LHI had a strong presence at this year's New England Regional Minority Health Conference, held this year at the Foxwoods resort in Ledyard, Connecticut. Yes, we did serious business among las tragamonedas and the poker tournament, but the Grand Pequot Hotel is not a bad place for a conference.
On Tuesday morning, I took part in a panel presentation on behalf of the New England Coalition for Health Equity (NECHE), for which LHI is the research and policy institute. On behalf of NECHE, we are currently updating a survey of racial and ethnic identification in public health data systems, which we first did in 2001,* and a review of state policy to address health disparities in the New England states, based on a framework laid out in the Commonwealth Fund Report "A State Policy Agenda to Eliminate Health Disparities".** Bruce Cohen, who is head data guru for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, then discussed the new Massachusetts state data standard, which we very much support in principal because it allow people to identify themselves by specific ethnicity, including by specific Latin American national origin. Bill Walker, Director of the Office of Minority Health for New Hampshire, Carrie Bridges, his counterpart from Rhode Island, and Brian Kevin Gibbs of the Harvard School of Public Health also participated on the panel, which was moderated by Janet L. Scott-Harris, Regional Program Consultant for the U.S. Office of Minority Health.
That afternoon, Alfredo Hernandez, LHI's Program Coordinator for Men's Health, participated with representatives of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition on a panel describing the development of a multi-ethnic conference on HIV care, called Bringing it Home. It was an excellent discussion of the challenges, and benefits, of building a coalition among people from various immigrant groups. (I hope Alfredo will have a chance to write about it here. I plan to invite him.)
That evening, I co-facilitated a NECHE meeting with NECHE Chair Curtiss Reed from ALANA community organization in Brattleboro, Vermont. Bill, Carrie, Brian and Janet also participated in that meeting, along with more than 20 other people from around New England. We're planning to develop a major proposal on behalf of NECHE, about which more later.
On Wednesday, several of us presented a workshop entitled "Developing a comprehensive culturall competent behavioral health clinic behavioral health clinic for a linguistic and cultural minority group." I presented a brief history of LHI, but the heart of the workshop consisted of presentations by Ruben Montano-Lopez, Director of Clinical Services in our Boston office; Jorge Soler, Evaluation Associate; Fannie Figueroa, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Director of the Community Health Initiative; and Victor Griffiths, Clinical Director. My colleagues described our clinical services, including the Comadres program, which is actually located within the Community Health Initiative, and the challenges and opportunities we face as we make the transition from contract-funded services to third-party reimbursement. Our PowerPoint presentations are available to anyone who is interested; just send me an e-mail.
The presentation was very well received. Most of the audience are engaged in providing similar services, and they felt they had a lot to learn from our experiences and expertise. Once again, I hope some of my colleagues will be interested in posting here about the material they presented. As an additional benefit, we now have a well-structured presentation about some of the important programs of our agency, we will be able to use in the future.
I apologize that it's taken a while for us to begin posting here regularly, but Rob Pomales and I intend to update this site frequently from now on. We hope you will continue to visit, and leave comments. Thanks for reading.
*Laws MB, Heckscher R. Racial and ethnic identification practices in public health data systems in New England. Public Health Reports. 2002; 117(1):5-61.
**McDonough, JE, Gibbs, BK, Scott-Harris JL, Kronebusch K, Navarro AM, Taylor K. A State Policy Agenda to Eliminate Health Disparities. The Commonwealth Fund. New York. June 2004.