Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: Tackling Health Disparities in America
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
I believe, as Dr. King did, that health care is a fundamental civil right. As such, my primary charge as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust is to promote, protect, support and defend the basic human right of all Americans to healthy life.
Your zip code, ethnicity and bank balance shouldn’t impact your health outcomes. Yet these socioeconomic factors have perpetuated persistent health disparities that have been barriers to progress in communities of color for generations.
The theme for the CBC Health Braintrust this Congress, “The March Toward Health Equity,” is both a nod to the 50th Anniversary of the Selma march and a mantra for the movement to eliminate health inequity in America.
The CBC Health Braintrust has an aggressive agenda that involves introducing legislation to tackle our nation’s most pressing health care challenges while keeping the issue of health equity and disparity reduction at the forefront of the national agenda.
In particular, I’m gearing up to introduce the 2016 Health Equity and Accountability Act, Congress’ signature health disparities legislation. This legislation is a vital framework for addressing health inequity—prior versions served as the foundation for the Affordable Care Act.
The CBC Health Braintrust, in tandem with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, is working with key health care stakeholders to ensure that the latest version of the HEAA bill is in keeping with the core philosophy of the ACA in expanding access to quality health care for all.
In addition, I plan to release the 2015 Kelly Report on Health Equity in America, an official congressional report examining the root causes and impact of health disparities in America. The report will provide a comprehensive set of legislative and policy recommendations to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes nationwide.
Most importantly, I’m taking the CBC Health Braintrust’s show on the road to meet with health care stakeholders and everyday citizens nationwide to raise awareness of the critical health issues impacting African American communities and outline ways I can work with these communities to combat them. The people on the ground – both the patients and the providers – are best positioned to understand the health problems in their communities and can provide vital intel on local solutions that may work to scale to help create healthier communities across the country.
With these steps – promoting legislation, raising awareness and developing grassroots solutions to health disparities – we can begin the march toward a healthier future. In doing so, we answer the call of the Dr. King to balance the scales of justice by laying the foundation for achieving health equity in a generation.
This article was originally published in Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.