MINORITY HEALTH: Clinton Launches $400 Million Effort
In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Clinton "announced a new $400 million effort to end long-standing health disparities between white and minority Americans by the year 2010." The Washington Times reports that Clinton focused on diseases and other medical conditions impacting "black or other minorities," listing close to a dozen "fatal or potentially life-threatening disorders that disproportionately" affect these populations (Price, 2/22). The president noted that "[p]rostate cancer strikes twice as many blacks as whites and diabetes three times as many American Indians as whites" (AP/Washington Post, 2/22). Additionally, Clinton pointed out that "African-American men are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease" and that "Vietnamese women contract cervical cancer at nearly five times the rate of non-Latino whites" (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 2/22). In his address, Clinton said, "[R]acial and ethnic disparities in health are unacceptable in a country that values equality and equal opportunity for all. And that is why we must act now with a comprehensive initiative that focuses on health care and prevention for racial and ethnic minorities" (transcript, 2/21).
Covering The Bases
"[J]oined in the Oval Office by representatives of the NAACP and other organizations of minorities," Clinton outlined a five-year, $400 million minority health initiative, an effort the president noted would rely on "private-sector help" (AP/Post, 2/22). The AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports that "Congress would have to approve the ... funding, with $30 million a year slated for 30 communities that would each focus on one or two health problems to develop model strategies" (Sobieraj, 2/22). According to the AP/Post, the president's initiative would be aimed at "eliminat[ing] disparities in six areas where differences between white and minority Americans are most stark." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will concentrate funding in the following areas: infant mortality, cancer screening and management, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, child and adult immunizations and HIV/AIDS (2/22). Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Surgeon General David Satcher "will be heading up the effort to abolish the 'disturbing gaps' between the health of white Americans and that of blacks and other minorities," according to Clinton in his speech (Washington Times, 2/22). Shalala noted that the $400 million requested by the president would be used "to both assess our current programs and improve data collection and work with communities" (Shalala/Satcher press conference, 2/20).
The Los Angeles Times reports that "[t]he minority health initiative represents the latest in a series of efforts by the Clinton administration to make incremental improvements in the nation's health care system" (2/22). The Washington Times notes that "Mr. Clinton is the first president ever to set a deadline for eradicating racial and ethnic health disparities." Noting the chance to break away from earlier public health initiatives, Shalala said, "[I]n the past, ... we had one set of goals for the racial and ethnic communities in the United States and another set of goals for the rest of the country. Health goals for minorities were 'set lower' because communities were further behind" (2/22). The AP/Post notes that Clinton's minority health campaign ties in with this month's celebration of Black History, and the president announced that "136 philanthropic organizations would convene a national conference on minority health this spring" (AP/Post, 2/22). Satcher said, "[T]his is a mobilization initiative. It's going to be very important that this is a public and private initiative. It's not limited to the government. We are depending upon organizations in communities throughout this country to join us in making this initiative work. We will be communicating with communities throughout this country, listening to communities, trying to identify successful models that can be applied more broadly" (Shalala/Satcher press conference, 2/20).
The Los Angeles Times reports that black churches are being urged to get more involved in fighting AIDS and caring for AIDS patients. Balm in Gilead, a New York-based group, "is encouraging African-American churches nationwide to host a week of prayer and education about AIDS, beginning March 1." According to Balm in Gilead officials, the "Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS is an effort to encourage African-American churches to become centers for AIDS education and 'compassionate care'" (Robinson-Jacobs, 2/21).