"Can We Achieve Health Equity with Health Reform?" By Elmer Freeman

This article is more than 13 years old.

The singular measure of the success of Massachusetts health reform, defined as universal coverage, should be whether we achieve health equity for all residents of the Commonwealth. The challenge is whether we can eliminate the persistent disparities in health and health care experienced by significant segments of the state’s population.

One step toward achieving that goal was realized when the Massachusetts State Legislature passed legislation that authorized the creation of a new statewide Office of Health Equity to lead efforts within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and across the other Secretariats to coordinate efforts that would lead to the elimination of disparities in health in Massachusetts. The statewide coalition of advocates representing over 70 groups and organizations comprising the Disparities Action Network (DAN) who worked with this as their chief policy agenda and pushed it thorough the legislature sincerely thank Representative Rushing and Senator Wilkerson for their leadership on getting this initiative through the State budget process and as Co-Chairs of the Health Disparities Council established under Chapter 58.

The DAN envisions this Office as providing the high level state authority and infrastructure necessary to make disparities elimination not only a priority for all state health and human service agencies, but to coordinate with other Secretariats (transportation, housing, education, environment, etc.) and their respective agencies to address the ways that their policies and programs can support elimination of health disparities and promotion of health equity in the Commonwealth.

The Office will also be critical in providing staff support and organization for the work of the Health Disparities Council and as the liaison with the Health Care Cost and Quality Council both of which have a crucial role in the system achieving health equity. The role for the DAN involves supporting the implementation of the legislation and the work of the Office. It is also to be vigilant in its monitoring of the work of both Councils as they move forward with implementation of the challenging issues in Chapter 58.

The DAN recognizes an alignment of forces and an opportune time in Massachusetts, with a Governor taking leadership on the issue, a Health and Human Services Secretary who is passionate about the issue, and a Public Health Commissioner who understands it. This is our best chance to realize just and equitable health for all our citizens.

Elmer Freeman, Executive Director, Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, Inc. and Co-Chair, Disparities Action Network.

This program aired on July 31, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.