New Jersey Health Department Announces Three-Year Plan To Address Racial Health Disparities
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services released a plan on Thursday that outlines health issues disproportionately affecting minorities in the state and how to reduce them during the next three years, the Asbury Park Press reports (Rispoli, Asbury Park Press, 3/9). According to Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred Jacobs, Hispanic children in the state have the highest obesity rates; blacks are three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized for asthma complications; and the death rate from AIDS-related illnesses is 16 times higher for blacks and five times higher for Hispanics than whites (Livio, Newark Star-Ledger, 3/8). The report -- which is about 100 pages long -- addresses asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality (Asbury Park Press, 3/9). It calls for expanding existing programs that have been successful in addressing minority health issues, including those teaching individuals to better manage asthma, training teachers to help students control asthma and encouraging more individuals to be tested for HIV. In addition, the state plans to establish an Office of Obesity Prevention and to encourage minorities to be screened for high blood pressure and to eat healthier diets. The report also called for increasing the number of minorities working in management and policymaking jobs within the health department. The state also plans to host a diabetes summit next week and an obesity summit at the end of the month (Layton, Bergen Record, 3/9). Language barriers; disparities in income, education and health care access; and the poverty rate are factors in racial health disparities, according to the report, the Press reports (Asbury Park Press, 3/9). According to the report, "There is also growing evidence that provider behaviors, including a lack of cultural competency, contribute to disparities in care" (Bergen Record, 3/9). Jacobs said, "These disparities are long-standing. They are not new. But they are persistent and result from a complex set of factors, including poverty, environment, language barriers and lack of health insurance" (Newark Star-Ledger, 3/8). Jacobs said the plan does not involve any funding increases or the launch of any major new programs. Natasha Coleman, senior director of health systems and collaboration for the American Cancer Society Eastern Division, said, "Without increased funding or expansion of the [New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection] program, there's no way we're going to totally eliminate the health disparities we're facing in New Jersey" (Bergen Record, 3/9). Debbie Salas-Lopez, chief of the division of internal medicine at the Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network, expressed concern that the plan does not address mental health. Officials will evaluate progress on the plan throughout the next three years and beyond (Asbury Park Press, 3/9).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat to view the report.