Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I rise today to ask my Senate colleagues to join me in recognizing – belatedly – April as National Minority Health Month. For over 30 years, this commemorative event has provided us the opportunity to celebrate the progress we’ve made in addressing minority health disparities and related issues in our Nation, and to renew our commitment to continue this critically important effort.
The theme of this year’s National Minority Health Month observance, “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation,” reflects both a sense of urgency and determination in moving the country forward toward health equity. Minorities now make up more than 35 percent of the American population and that number is expected to rise in the future. Studies have shown, however, that disparities persist for minority populations and are evident in higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, among other conditions. For instance, over 29 million Americans suffer from diabetes. But African-Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with, and to die from, diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. In addition, nearly one-half of all African Americans and Latinos experience the highest rates of adult obesity.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health (HHS OMH), which leads the Nation in raising awareness about minority health disparities, their causes, and the impact they have on minority communities and the Nation as whole. To commemorate this occasion, a renewed effort is underway with public and private stakeholders to accelerate achieving health equity for all Americans through the development of research, community programs, and legislation. We owe it to our constituents to advance this national movement. For these reasons, I am proud my colleagues, Senators Hirono, Blumenthal, Brown, Menendez, and Schatz have joined me in introducing a resolution recognizing April as National Minority Health Month.
In our country, we are incredibly fortunate to have the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which works tirelessly to improve the health of all Americans. Within the NIH, the National Institute for Minority Health & Health Disparities (NIMHD) has the specific mission of addressing minority health issues and eliminating health disparities. I am proud of my role in the establishment of the NIMHD, which supports groundbreaking research at universities and medical institutions across our country. This critically important work ranges from enhancing our understanding of the basic biological processes associated with health disparities to applied, clinical, and translational research and interventions that seek to address those disparities.
Today, because of the steadfast work of committed leaders and individuals we’ve made significant strides to achieving health equity for all. Thanks to innovative reforms such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we’ve made health coverage more accessible and affordable than it has been in decades. By reducing the number of uninsured Americans across the country, the ACA is helping to address health inequalities. In Maryland, due to increased funding as a result of the ACA, over 300,000 Marylanders – a majority of which come from minority communities – now have access to community health clinics and life-saving health care.
Every community across this great Nation deserves optimal health. One’s ethnic or racial background should never determine the length or quality of life. As we belatedly recognize April as National Minority Health Month, let us renew our commitment to ensuring all Americans’ access to affordable, high-quality health care and renew our pledge to do everything possible to eliminate health disparities and ultimately achieve health equity for all.
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