President Clinton has launched a $400 million initiative to eliminate gaps between the health of non-Latino whites and minorities by the year 2010, declaring that such disparities “are unacceptable in a country that values equality and equal opportunity for all.”
Outlining the plan in his Saturday radio address, Clinton said, “Nowhere are the divisions of race and ethnicity more sharply drawn than in the health of our people.”
Various studies have identified several ailments that hit minorities harder than non-Latino whites, and Clinton’s initiative aims to eliminate these disparities by targeting six key areas: infant mortality, diabetes, cancer screening and management, heart disease, AIDS and immunization.
The $400 million would be spent over five years to collect data, evaluate existing federal programs and help communities develop new strategies for improving minority health.
The public health initiative is to be led by Dr. David Satcher, who was confirmed as surgeon general earlier this month. Satcher has devoted much of his medical career to improving the health of minorities.
Clinton linked the announcement to the February celebration of Black History month. Donna Shalala, secretary of Health and Human Services, described the proposal as the “health piece” of the initiative Clinton launched last year to improve racial relations in America.
The 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 - a strategic shift from Clinton’s comprehensive health reform plan that was soundly rejected by Congress in 1994.
Clinton said the minority health effort was needed despite recent gains in general public health, including a significant drop in infant mortality and an overall increase in immunization.
“We must not be blind to the alarming fact that too many Americans do not share in the fruits of our progress,” Clinton said.
Of the money Clinton has proposed for the program, $80 million has been requested for the first year as part of the 1999 federal budget he submitted to Congress this month.
Although some are likely to criticize the proposed federal spending as too little, Shalala said the program will seek private sector contributions that would boost the five-year total to more than $1 billion.
A coalition of 136 philanthropic organizations has agreed to participate in the program and will serve with the White House as co-host of a spring conference on the problem.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE STATISTICS The White House cited these comparisons between minorities and non-Latino whites: Black men are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease. Also, infant mortality rates for blacks are 2-1/2 times higher and they suffer from diabetes at rates 70 percent higher than non-Latino whites. And black men under age 65 are twice as likely to suffer from prostate cancer. The stomach cancer rate for Latinos is two to three times higher, and they suffer from diabetes at a rate twice the national average. Vietnamese women contract cervical cancer at nearly five times the rate of non-Latino whites. Chinese Americans are more than four times as likely to get liver cancer, and Hepatitis B is much more common among Asian Americans than the rest of the population. Native Americans suffer from diabetes at a rate almost three times the national average, and their infant mortality rate is 1-1/2 times higher than it is for non-Latino whites.