...And Quality Healthcare for All: Reducing Health Disparities in America

Article excerpt

The March-April 2011 issue of Aging Today featured a timely article by Dr. Fernando Torres-Gil and Diana Lam ("America Is at the Nexus of Aging and Multiculturalism") that not only identified our nation's impending "silver" tsunami, but also considered the fact that this wave of baby boomers will be composed of many races and ethnicities.

While the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2032 there will be more individuals alive over age 65 than under age 15, what hasn't been as widely discussed is the explosive population growth among racial and ethnic minorities. By 2050, Census Bureau projections indicate U.S. Hispanic growth by 188 percent, Asian and Pacific Islander growth by 213 percent, and black population growth by 71 percent. These numbers constitute a significant proportion of racial and ethnic minority elders.

These considerable increases in racial and ethnic minorities beg the following questions: Will community-based and healthcare service providers be adequately trained in culturally competent care to provide appropriate and quality service for minority elders? Can public and private service provider organizations at all levels (local, state and federal) work cooperatively to ensure that racial and ethnic minority older adults receive high-quality, timely and necessary aging services?

An Historic Vision

April 8, 2011, will one day be remembered as an historic event within the context of the struggle to eliminate health disparities. On this day at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Minority Health leadership, congressional leadership and leading academicians introduced two strategic plans to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities: The National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity (National Stakeholder Strategy) and The Health and Human Services Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (see minority health.hhs.gov.)

Disparities affecting minority racial and ethnic groups and their access to healthcare services, service quality and health outcomes have afflicted Americans for generations. Recently, the Administration for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has begun to produce an annual report containing data sets that identify key access, quality and outcome measures as they pertain to minority populations. In 2010, AHRQ's National Healthcare Disparities Report (www.ahrq. gov/qual/qrdrlO.htm) found significant disparities in healthcare and access. Blacks and American Indians/Alaskan Natives received worse care than whites in approximately 40 percent of core measures, and Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic whites in about 60 percent of core measures.

While both strategic plans are critical to advancing health equity among all age groups, the National Stakeholder Strategy is a community-driven plan with strategies and objectives focusing on partnership building to achieve healthy aging for all races and ethnicities.

Specific Help for Minority Elders

Within the goals and strategies listed in the National Stakeholder Strategy, Strategy 10 (minorityhealth. …