How We Keep Minority Communities Healthy

How We Keep Minority Communities Healthy

08.21.12 | By

As part of our "From Hope to Cures" guest blog series, today we have a post from Gary A. Puckrein, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Quality Forum, a non-profit healthcare research and educational organization dedicated to the elimination of health disparities.

Early in our founding, the National Minority Quality Forum identified the need for a more complete picture of the prevalence of acute and chronic conditions in racial and ethnic minority populations. To fill this intelligence deficit, we developed the National Health Index, a comprehensive information resource that comprises demographic, environmental, claims, clinical-laboratory, and other data in a centralized data warehouse, linked by zip code. As we now understand in which populations the disparities lie, the next step is identifying the areas of our health care system that contribute to these unequal health outcomes.

Take, for example, a patient's understanding and ability to adhere to the appropriate medication on the appropriate schedule to manage their disease. When a person has an illness, he or she must go to a retail center-a point of care, such as a hospital, a physician's office, or a pharmacy-to purchase products and services to manage the disorder according to an appropriate schedule. Failure to consume appropriately may unleash a more acute stage of the disease: increased discomfort, inpatient care, an emergency-room visit, or death, occurring in certain populations who share demographic and geographic characteristics.

Responses to health disparities must be system oriented and must accrue to the benefit of all Americans. Our hope is that a new health care market that includes minority and previously uninsured populations will become reality. Stubborn disparities in quality and outcomes should disappear as businesses invest in minority health, recruit minority subjects into clinical trials, and educate minority communities about new products and services that can extend and improve their lives.

We must collectively do more to help patients remain healthy, which will bring down health care costs while enhancing productivity at the national level. Government can encourage investments that address unmet medical needs, and it can support efforts to find cost-efficient solutions for therapies that currently fail to satisfy consumer demands. However, it should not institute price controls; shift costs to beneficiaries in government-sponsored programs; reduce the availability of new therapies while promoting older, less-expensive treatments; overregulate the practice of medicine; or distort communications between consumers and providers.

Working together, government, patients and industry can help ensure long-term quality health care for minority communities. This alone must be a priority focus.

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