of Health Strategic Plan Goals
Goal 3: Reduce health
Lead Staff: Tara
Health disparities is a term that describes a
disproportionate burden of disease, disability, and death among a
particular population or group. Racial and ethnic minorities make up
roughly one-fifth (18 percent) of Washington State's population. Yet
their disease burden is significantly higher. For some ethnic groups,
the incidence of a particular disease may be five times the rate for
Caucasian residents. The infant mortality rate for African Americans and
American Indians/Alaskan Natives in Washington, for example, is twice
what it is for Caucasians.
Health disparities has been a priority policy area for the
Board since 2001. In the past, the Board has focused much of its attention
on addressing workforce diversity.
In 2009, the Board adopted a five-year strategic
plan. Policy projects affecting health disparities are reflected in one of
the strategic plan's five goal areas listed below. However, given the
importance the Board places on addressing this issue, it is reflected in all
of its goals.
Strengthen the public health system.
Increase access to preventive services.
Reduce health disparities.
Encourage healthy behaviors.
Promote healthy and save environments.
For instance, the Board is working to support the tribes'
efforts to increase their public health capacity by developing a tribal
public health section on the Board Web site and supporting efforts to ensure
a tribal government representative on the State Board of Health. These
activities and others are designed to help assure access to critical health
services (goal 2 above). You can review the Board's five-year
plan to see more examples of how health disparities is incorporated into
the Board's four goals.
The Board hopes to contribute to the goal of reducing
health disparities by:
- Supporting the successful implementation of Senate Bill 6197 (2006).
- Identifying and supporting ways to simultaneously reduce health
disparities and the academic achievement gap.
- Integrating health disparities
considerations into Board activities.
The Board hopes to capitalize on
a number of promising opportunities to address health disparities in our
state. For instance, the Joint Select Committee on Health Disparities
(co-chaired by Senator Rosa Franklin and Representative Dawn Morrell)
report in November 2005. The Board endorses all ten of the report's
The Board also endorses the
activities of Washington
Learns, which promotes early learning. A child's early experiences are
lifelong determinants of health and well being. There is a strong link
between early learning and health disparities. A lack of school readiness
puts children at risk of academic, social, and behavioral difficulties in
school. Those children are more likely to leave school before high school
graduation; get involved in criminal behavior; become pregnant as a
teenager; and become addicted to tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. The
combination of behavioral problems and failure in school are also associated
with low levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.
The reverse is
also true. Children from high quality early learning and care programs are
more likely to graduate high school, go on to college or higher learning,
and earn more. These outcomes are all associated with better physical and
mental health as adults.
programs can offer health education to parents and increase the health
literacy of families. Research has shown that early childhood programs can
affect children's physical health by requiring that children be immunized;
by linking them to health services; by conducting vision, hearing, and
developmental screenings; and in some cases, by providing them with
attend quality early learning programs have greater access to health care
and improved physical health, receive better dental care, and demonstrate
improved nutritional status and better nutritional practices. Early learning
and child care programs are also essential in getting children enrolled into
low-income children's health insurance programs for which they are eligible.
In the United States, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest
that education level and household income are lower in minority communities
than the general population and that minorities have poorer health than
Disparities and Workforce Diversity
In May 2001, the Board adopted its
Report on Health Disparities. The report documents the severity of
health disparities in Washington. It also demonstrates that people of
color are underrepresented in our state's health care workforce and
underserved by its health care system. Research shows that a diverse
health care workforce can improve the health status of racial and ethnic
minorities. The report identifies multiple opportunities to build a more
diverse health care system including convening a broad-based,
public/private group to coordinate efforts to improve health workforce
Each Student Successful: Exploring Policies to Address Health Disparities
and the Academic Achievement Gap
On May 18, 2007, the Board will co-host a day long summit on health
disparities and the academic achievement gap. Research has shown that
the same students who are disproportionately affected by the academic
achievement gap are also adversely affected by health disparities.
This invitation only event will bring together policy makers, educators,
public health professionals, parents, students, families, and advocates to
discuss policy and system changes needed to promote good health and narrow
the academic achievement gap. More