Evidence-based interventions at the local and national levels provide promising strategies for reducing racial and ethnic health disparities related to HIV infection rates, immunization coverage, motor vehicle injuries and deaths, and smoking, according to a report by the CDCs Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.
The report, published as a supplement to the April 18 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, describes CDC-led programs to address some of the health disparities previously highlighted in the CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Reports, 2011 and 2013. The CHDIR reports highlight differences in mortality and disease risk for multiple conditions related to behaviors, access to healthcare and social determinants of health.
Reducing and eliminating health disparities is central to achieving the highest level of health for all people, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. We can close the gap when it comes to health disparities if we monitor the problem effectively and ensure that there is equal access to all proven interventions.
Examples of the programs and health disparities addressed:
The Vaccines for Children program, managed by the CDC, provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children who might otherwise not be vaccinated because of inability to pay. After the introduction of the VFC program, racial and ethnic disparities in childhood immunization coverage do not exist for measles-mumps-rubella and poliovirus vaccines.
Many Men, Many Voices is an evidence-based HIV/STD prevention intervention developed by and for black men who have sex with men that can lead to decreased rates of HIV infection and increased access to preventive services and treatment among men of color who have sex with men.
It uses small group education and interaction to increase knowledge and change attitudes and behaviors related to HIV/STD risk among black men who have sex with men. In a randomized clinical trial, the program reduced participants high-risk sexual activity and increased rates of HIV testing. The program has been implemented in 37 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico and has been adapted to serve other men of color who have sex with men.
Four American Indian/Alaska Native tribal communities implemented tribal motor vehicle injury prevention programs, using evidence-based road safety interventions to reduce motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths. Each tribal community showed increased use of seat belts and child safety seats, increased enforcement of alcohol-impaired driving laws or decreased motor vehicle crashes involving injuries or deaths. The effective use of billboards, radio and television media campaigns and school and community education programs contributed to the success of this public health program.
These interventions demonstrate progress toward health equity, Leandris C. Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA, the CDCs associate director for Minority Health and Health Equity, said in the news release. They show the elimination of health disparities as an achievable goal and encourage further implementation of evidence-based initiatives and interventions addressing health disparities and inequities.
MMWR supplement on health disparities: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ind2014_su.html#HealthDisparities2014