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Minority Health Bill Headed to President

The House on October 30 approved, by voice vote, a bill (S. 1880) pertaining to minority health, sending it to the President. The Senate passed the bill on October 26 (see The Source, 10/27/00, p. 5).

The measure establishes a National Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as Centers of Excellence for Research Education and Training at the NIH. Additionally, S. 1880 requires the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to conduct research on how to improve the quality and outcomes of health care services for minority populations and the causes of health disparities. The National Academy of Sciences will study the data collection systems of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with respect to race and ethnicity. Under the bill, HHS will aid in the development, implementation, and evaluation of health professions education in decreasing disparities in health care outcomes, including cultural competency. S. 1880 also establishes a public awareness campaign with respect to health disparities in minority and underserved populations.

Speaking in support of the measure, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “African Americans and Hispanics, who represent 12 and 11 percent respectively of our Nation’s population, now account for 70 percent of new HIV cases and nearly 60 percent of new AIDS cases. And African-American and Hispanic women account for 78 percent of the newly reported infections among women. Not enough research is being done to understand and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.”

Del. Donna Christian-Christensen (D-VI) added: “Health care disparities in people of color, those of low socio-economic status, and in our rural areas should cause us all concern in this country which boasts of the best in medical expertise and the most advanced medical technology. But they exist, and even as we turn the page into a new century, the gaps are not closing but getting wider.”

A similar bill (H.R. 3250), sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), was approved by the House Commerce Committee on July 26 (see The Source, 7/31/00, p. 9).

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