HHS to Launch Workgroup to Help Eliminate Health Disparities

Despite continued advances in heath care and technology, racial and ethnic minorities continue to have higher rates of disease, disability, and premature death than non-minorities. In response to this discrepancy, HHS is preparing to launch the National Partnership for Action, which will be the first HHS national plan to eliminate health disparities—persistent gaps between the health status of minorities and non-minorities. Health information technology (HIT) is a critical aspect of this plan. 

Health care providers—and the medical community as a whole—must develop methods to bridge the many barriers that prevent adoption and implementation of HIT in underserved communities of color.

Many HHS agencies and offices have recently implemented HIT programs that may benefit the communities seeing the highest rates of disparate care—typically, underserved communities of color. However, there has not yet been a comprehensive strategic plan to take stock of the benefits of those programs and leverage them with departmental efforts to reduce health disparities. To address this need, we are assembling an interagency workgroup to identify key opportunities and a strategic path forward.

On April 5, the HHS HIT Disparities Workgroup will convene for six weeks to create an HIT strategic plan that will focus on the following three objectives:

  1. Measure HIT adoption and implementation outcomes within underserved communities of color;
  2. Discuss and implement projects to help shrink the digital divide (as we define it); and
  3. Establish sustainable channels of communication between agencies in order to accomplish the above objectives.

The National Partnership for Action’s website contains a number of resources that can help you get involved in reducing and eliminating health disparities and ensuring that all Americans have full and meaningful access to information about their personal health and individual rights. No matter where you live, work, or play, you can be part of the solution! Learn more about how to join the effort as a community group, a state agency, or a partner.  Stay tuned for more information and consider how your agency or office can be a part of this work moving forward.


  1. Kendra Davenport says:

    EMRs should certainly help in the process, however, people need to be encouraged and educated to actually show up for their appointments. I have spoken to doctor’s from rural parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania and their non-cancellation rates for people who just skip appointments are incredibly high. Thus, they often double-book time slots since so many poor, disadvantaged or minority people just don’t show up.

  2. Natalie Fraser says:

    Nurse-managed health clinics (NMHCs) are often located in communities of color and are committed to advancing the health needs and goals of the communities we serve. In addition, many nurse-managed clinics have embraced health IT.

    NMHC are the quintessential safety net providers, committed to caring for underserved and vulnerable populations throughout the country. PPACA defined a NMHC as a nurse practice arrangement, managed by advanced practice nurses, that provides primary care or wellness services to underserved or vulnerable populations and that is associated with a school, college, university or department of nursing, federally qualified health center, or independent nonprofit health or social services agency.

    In addition to providing health care, nurse-managed clinics play an important role in providing training opportunities for the next generations of nurses, physicians, and allied health professionals.

    In Pennsylvania the Public Health Datamart Network was formed to provide ongoing support and facilitate collaboration between member clinics of the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) on health IT projects, research, and data related activities. All members of the network use an EHR and practice management system to collect and report business and clinical performance measures of patient, provider, and practice quality. The network is recognized as a primary care practice-based research network by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

    The Public Health Datamart Network is composed of five organizations: the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, the NNCC, the Family Practice and Counseling Network, La Comunidad Hispana and Congreso de Latinos Unidos. Together these organizations are a network of eleven NMHCs that study service utilization and clinical outcomes of care at NMHCs and actively pursue opportunities to participate in quality improvement and research projects. Unfortunately, due to resource limitations facing NMHCs, the NNCC has been limited in its ability to develop the potential of the Public Health Datamart Network.

    We suggest that the HHS HIT Disparities Workgroup identify NMHCs as a key partner and include them in its strategic plan. In addition, we would like to invite the Workgroup and the HHS National Partnership for Action to partner with National Nursing Centers Consortium in developing methods to bridge the many barriers that prevent adoption and implementation of HIT in underserved communities of color.

  3. Jim says:

    One factor that could help reduce the higher rates of disease in ethnic minorities is more awareness of and screening for vitamin D deficiencies, particularly in African-Americans and people with darker skin.

    According to the National Center for Health Statistics over a third of Americans are vitamin D deficient. But hat number could be more than double for African-Americans, especially those that live in northern areas that don’t get a lot of sunshine in the winter.

    Vitamin D deficiency can raise the risk for diseases like cancer, diabetes and CVD, according to several new studies, yet it is simple to treat once detected. 

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