Online Program

Pushing the state to action: The Massachusetts health disparities council and office of health equity

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 1:30 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.

Roxanne Reddington-Wilde, PhD, Community Coordination, Action for Boston Community Development, Inc., Boston, MA
Elmer Freeman, MSW, PhD(c), Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, Boston, MA
It's been a learning experience. In 2006, the Massachusetts Health Disparities Commission released a report calling for a high-level, state Office of Health Equity which could work across governmental secretariats and departments to review their plans and recommend concrete actions to eliminate health disparities and promote health equity. That year, Massachusetts' groundbreaking Health Care Reform Law codified the commission into the state Health Disparities Council with a mission “to identify and recommend policies and actions to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care and health outcomes and to achieve health equity for all Massachusetts residents.” It mandates 37 members drawn from the legislature and an array of state health officials and organizations. Many of the original commission's most active and ardent members were appointed to it. In 6 years, the Council has produced a 2 page, Framework for Eliminating Health Disparities. Its active membership has dwindled. The current administration has tucked an Office of Health Equity within its Department of Public Health. That office struggles for resources to produce a Commission-recommended “Health Disparities Report Card.” How has Massachusetts gone from a vibrant, pre-Health Reform, Health Disparities Commission with many plans and recommendations on ending disparities to a formalized but frozen Council that, despite desire and good will, cannot translate ideals into action? How would a small but high-level, legislatively mandated and funded Office of Health Equity situated outside of and “above” Public Health change the situation? What is the role of public advocacy in breaking the inertia?

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Explain the difficulty of translating health disparity elimination plans into effective, state level actions; Discuss the need for health disparity action and authority outside the standard purview of public health; Identify the role of public advocacy and persistence in pushing state government into action on health disparities.

Keyword(s): Advocacy, Health Care Reform

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Co-Chair of Disparities Action Network,which supports the creation of a Massachusetts Office of Health Equity.
Any relevant financial relationships? Yes

Name of Organization Clinical/Research Area Type of relationship
Disparities Action Network None Co-Chair

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.