Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, today endorsed the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Stakeholder Strategy (NSS) for Achieving Health Equity, a comprehensive roadmap to help diverse communities and underserved groups reach their full health potential and eliminate health disparities. The NSS strategy, which is a product of the National Partnership for Action (NPA), was announced in an event today at the National Press Club. It incorporates input from thousands of individuals and organizations across the country.
Dr. Cruz’s prepared remarks are below:
“Healthcare truly affects us all— regardless of location, background, or circumstance— and we are grateful to have these champions in our corner, ensuring every American can fulfill this basic and precious need.
“It is a pleasure to be here today, not only on behalf of the National Hispanic Council on Aging and the constituencies we serve – Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers– but also on behalf of all diverse communities across the United States as we collectively seek to bring an end to health disparities.
“The goal of achieving health equity has been an ongoing struggle for several decades, and the one prevailing truth is that the key to overcoming these iniquities is through a united, collaborative front.
“NHCOA is confident that the National Stakeholders Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, which is being unveiled today as part of a larger, national umbrella strategy, has developed the roadmap that will lead us to success.
What makes this roadmap unique is that it wasn’t created in a vacuum, but rather pieced together with the input of those who are directly impacted by, and invested in ending, health disparities across the country.
And, more importantly, this roadmap bolsters practices that have already been proven to work and are being implemented as we speak. This strategy isn’t about reinventing wheel, rather building on existing tools and resources and applying them in a coordinated way that ensures maximum impact.
That is why we are proud to endorse and embrace this strategy, as well join these important efforts.
“In particular, I’d like to highlight some key elements of the NSS strategy, which NHCOA considers essential to achieving health equity:
“The incorporation of determinants of health: We can’t address health iniquities without first understanding what factors contribute to health disparities in the first place.
“Health promotion and disease prevention: Rising healthcare costs are one of the greatest concerns for our states. We know that an important way to reduce costs, particularly as it relates to chronic disease management, is through prevention.
“Cultural and language competency: This is absolutely necessary to help close the health disparity gap.
“I would like to share a couple of anecdotes that reflect this reality.
“Both are Hispanic seniors in the late 70s and have lived in this country for decades. They also have chronic illnesses and share deeply rooted fears and misconceptions when it comes to our healthcare system.
“In a focus group, one of the seniors said he doesn’t feel welcome when visiting the doctor. Rather he feels like beggar soliciting services. On the other hand, the other Hispanic elder said she feels rejected by her doctors, and make her feel— in her words— like a ‘dirty animal.’
“This break in linguistic and cultural communication only worsens health outcomes for patients of diverse communities like our Hispanic older adults.
“So, the question now is what can we do to put this strategy to work? NHCOA and its Hispanic Aging Network is already involved in creating age-sensitive and culturally and linguistically competent interventions and evidence-based models that are creating positive health outcomes for Hispanic older adults.
“NHCOA’s Health and Wellness Program is a prime example of such efforts. Through the Health and Wellness Program, NHCOA leverages the influence of cultural bonds by using promotores de salud or lay health educators to empower Latino elders and their caregivers to prevent and manage diabetes, which disproportionately affects Hispanics.
“Looking forward, we see ample opportunity for the aging network to use this strategy as a tool to gauge our response to the new demographic realities and assess the changes and shifts that need to be made to accommodate this landscape.
“Many programs that are still implemented today were crafted decades ago when our population was younger and less diverse.
“Therefore, the NSS strategy lays the groundwork to begin a radical shift that our healthcare system is in dire need of.
“We applaud HHS for their hard work in developing this strategy over the last two years, and we are excited to begin putting the National Stakeholder Strategy to work within our constituencies and the communities NHCOA and its Hispanic Aging Network touches as part of a broader collective effort to achieve health equity once and for all.”
NHCOA’s Salud y Bienestar (Health and Wellbeing) Program is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Walmart Foundation. For more information, visit http://elearning.nhcoa.org.