Nine months after launching the state’s first strategic plan to eliminate health disparities among minority populations, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., outlined the marked accomplishments statewide, including the mandatory collection of racial and ethnic data, improving access to care, and providing help in overcoming language differences.
”The Department continues to build on its long history of supporting minority health and efforts related to ultimately eliminating health disparities,” said Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. “I am immensely proud of our accomplishments and our comprehensive and targeted efforts to address some of the major issues that have contributed to racial and ethnic health disparities in New Jersey. Since we launched our strategic plan last March, there has been real progress, which will ultimately lead to healthier New Jersey residents.”
The Strategic Plan to Eliminate Health Disparities was launched in March 2007 with a comprehensive strategy that incorporates research, education, and community partnerships into improving the healthcare and access to care for racial and minority populations.
The plan has two main focuses:
- Improving areas of care that disproportionately impact minority communities including asthma, breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancer; cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity HIV and infant mortality.
- Developing and improving on standards for collecting and reporting race/ethnicity data; enhance community outreach, increase minorities in management positions; and increase the availability of culturally and linguistically sensitive materials and services.
Since March, DHSS has achieved the following:
- In partnership with the New Jersey Hospital Association, the Department introduced a bilingual English/Spanish Communication Board designed to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate medical care to patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The Communication Board was distributed throughout hospitals statewide and centers of primary health care, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
- The Department’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health launched a Spanish language portal on its website. “Portal a la Salud” (http://nj.gov/health/omh/index_sp.shtml). The site provides information on resources, publications, events and updates in Spanish.
- The Department designed a pilot project, “Healthcare Interpreter Training Program” which provides culturally and linguistically appropriate medical care to patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The program offers training to community based and faith based organizations on medical interpretation, culturally appropriate care, language services provision and patient navigation.
- Significant policy changes have been made in statewide practices in collecting and reporting racial/ethnic data. The Department has established policy to standardize data into uniform categories. This allows for more opportunities to compare data and note trends.
- The Department has established a mentoring program whereby minority employees in the department have an opportunity to access the senior level managers in the department for greater opportunity to advance to such positions.
- The Department’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health presented Chronic Disease Self-Management Program mini-grants to eight community- and faith-based organizations statewide. The awards trained community leaders on effective methods and activities that can help individuals live with chronic diseases such as asthma, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
- The Department has developed a “Barbershop Program,” an initiative designed to increase the number of African American men who get screened for prostate cancer. Because of its success in two counties, this initiative will be replicated throughout New Jersey in all 21 counties.
- The Department collaborated with the Departments of Agriculture and Education to execute a three-month public awareness campaign that focused on childhood obesity as well as second-hand smoking—the top two preventable causes of death in New Jersey.
- The Department secured funding for the new Minority AIDS Outreach project, which focuses on identifying individuals who are not in care and linking them with comprehensive services in their communities.
- The Department co-sponsored six community-based Latino agencies to conduct intensive outreach and expand HIV testing to at-risk and "out-of-care" Latinos. Its campaign’s message "Despierta! Toma Control! Hazte La Prueba Del VIH" (Wake Up! Take Control! Take the HIV Test!) was delivered statewide.
- The Department’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health hosted its second annual Commissioner’s Health Disparities Symposium, which brings together public health practitioners, health care providers, academicians and policy-makers to review and develop strategies to resolve the complex issues contributing to racial/ethnic health disparities. This year, the symposium focused on social determinants of health.
“The Department plans to continue several of the initiatives already in place and to build on its success and best practices,” said Commissioner Jacobs. The Department’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health will continue the Commissioner's Health Disparities Symposium; and expand the medical interpretation training and other efforts to expand access to language resources; departmental reports are expected from this point on to reflect the standardized categories; and finally, the department plans to measure and report on progress of programs focusing on specific health areas which disproportionately impact minorities.
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