By Grace Austin

The Office of Minority Health (OMH) was created in 1986 and is one of the most significant outcomes of the 1985 Secretary’s Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health—known as The Heckler Report. The Office is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. OMH was reauthorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

The following are a few statistics that show the key impact that the Affordable Care Act can have in helping to eliminate health disparities:

As of April 2012, an estimated 5.5 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no-cost sharing.

As of April 2012, 3.9 million elderly and disabled Latinos who receive health coverage from Medicare have access to an expanded list of preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, colorectal cancer and obesity screening, and mammograms.

As of June 2012, over 3.1 million young adults without coverage, including 121,000 Asian Americans, will be able to remain on their parents plans.

In addition to supporting the development and provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the OMH has two other strategic priorities. The second involves coordinating the implementation of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, the policy that was launched in April 2011 that outlines the goals and actions needed to reduce health disparities. This is the first of its kind to actively engage the issue and provide solutions to the problem. Some of the HHS’s initiatives are Healthy People 2020, a gathering of data within the next data on health demographics, and Let’s Move, with a goal of solving childhood obesity, Michelle Obama’s initiative.

The final priority is the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA), launched after the OMH’s National Leadership Summit for Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health brought forth the need for such a task force. Began as a community-led, multi-sector approach, the NPA looks at the health disparity issue on a local, regional, and national level. They have created ten regional health equity councils led by health community leaders to address their goals of awareness, leadership, health system and life experience, cultural and linguistic competency, and data, research, and evaluation.