News & Announcements

National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 to October 15, 2012

Posted: September 17, 2012

The National Hispanic Heritage Month is commemorated each year between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, this year’s theme is “Many Backgrounds, Many Stories, One American Spirit”. The month is a time for celebrating the many ways that Hispanic people and culture have enriched America. It is also a time to remember that our work to close the access to health gap and to improve the health status of Latinos is not done. Throughout the month, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) will share information and resources designed to empower, educate and inform. Check out the website and follow OMH on Twitter in English and now in Spanish to get the latest information.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Multicultural Action Center has a number of resources for Latinos, which include:

Access resources on the Multicultural Action Center website. Visit the Office of Minority Health website.

Improving HIV Surveillance Among American Indians and Alaska Natives

Posted: September 15, 2012

The Federal Implementation Plan for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy specifically encourages improved surveillance to better characterize HIV among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), in proposed action steps to address the Strategy goal of reducing new HIV infections. The Implementation Plan calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide state health departments that have high concentrations of AI/AN populations with recommendations on effective HIV surveillance activities. Five areas for improvement of HIV surveillance among AI/AN were identified from literature reviews and discussions with staff in the jurisdictions:

  • Ascertainment of HIV infection
  • Reporting of diagnoses to surveillance
  • Identification of the race/ethnicity of reported cases
  • Effectiveness of data presentation in surveillance reports
  • Dissemination of AI/AN surveillance data. 

The literature review, focus groups and key informant interviews also identified action steps to improve HIV surveillance among AI/AN including:

  • Routine or periodic linkage of HIV surveillance data to other databases, such as tribal membership rolls or the IHS National Patient Registration System to correct race/ethnicity misidentification;
  • Combining several years of data and reporting AI/AN-specific data rather than subsuming these data under an “other” race/ethnicity category;
  • Working through a Tribal Liaison, Indian Health Board, or Tribal Epidemiology Center to identify data needs of AI/AN Tribes, communities, and non-governmental organizations;
  • Accommodating these data needs through analysis of surveillance data by zip code or county to approximate the boundaries of tribal lands or communities; and
  • Establishing formal and informal agreements, including provisions for data sharing to ensure that data reach those empowered to use them for public health action in AI/AN communities.

Read the full report (pdf).

Older Adults and Alcohol: How Friends and Family Can Help

Posted: September 14, 2012

Read the booklet -- Older Adults and Alcohol, to learn about alcohol and aging. Use it to start talking about how drinking may be affecting your life. Share this booklet with your friends and family. Don’t miss the special section on how friends and family can help. Family support can often make a big difference.

This booklet will help you learn about:

  • some problems older people may have with alcohol
  • what you can do if you think you have a drinking problem
  • how your family and friends can help

Read more on the National Institute on Aging website. Access the booklet.

Policy Experts Address Challenges Facing LGBT Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Posted: September 13, 2012

“Why are we focused on LGBTQI youth all of a sudden?” said Mykel Selph, director of the Office of Girls & Gender at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) in Illinois. The DePaul University adjunct professor answered her own inquiry by bringing up findings from a 2010 report -- LGBT Youth in Detention Understanding and Integrating Equitable Services, that estimates approximately 15 percent of incarcerated youth self-identify as LGBT and/or gender nonconforming. According to Selph, that means that as many as 40 juveniles in Cook County’s JTDC right now are part of a detained population she believes are often “largely invisible” in the eyes of most policymakers.

Selph was one of three speakers who presented at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Webinar, titled Understanding the Importance of Implementing an Effective Justice System Response for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) Youth in Custody. The Webinar examined the needs of LGBT youth in custody, as well as the impact of new United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) regulations that call for specific protections for detained LGBTQI juveniles.

Selph said that LGBT youths were arrested for prostitution, running away from home or other placements and outstanding warrants at disproportionate rates compared to the general youth population. She also noted that they were at far greater risk for bullying, suicide, substance abuse and sexual transmitted infections (STIs). Additional issues, such as legal or educational concerns, she said, often compound LGBTQI identity.

“We can’t ignore it and we can’t put it aside,” Selph said. “We want to ensure the safety for all youth.” Selph said emotional safety is often implied, but not necessarily focused on, when addressing LGBT youth in detention facilities. She said that addressing such emotional concerns, particularly for “closeted” youth, were “of the utmost importance, because we don’t know who they are.”

Four years ago, Selph said that her facility enacted a series of new policies and programs that directly addressed the needs of detained LGBT youth. “In 2008, the JTDC began a large reorganization effort under the leadership of transitional administrator Earl Dunlap,” she said. These policy changes addressed staff shortages, improved and increased mental health and medical care services and introduced annual review processes, as well as developed leadership training programs for management staff and a six-week pre-service training program for incoming staffers. Additional relationships with community agencies were also created, she said, to help provide programming for both detained youth and juveniles on the verge of re-entry.

Read more on the Reclaiming Futures website.

Social Determinants of Equity and Health in the United States

Posted: September 12, 2012

In the United States she is considered black, but in some parts of Brazil she has been told that she looks white, and in South Africa she was considered "colored." "And so, I have been assigned three different races depending on where I was, based on the social interpretation of me in those different places," Camara P. Jones, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. tells the Office of Minority Health Resource Center (OMHRC) "If I stayed long enough in any of those settings then my health outcomes would be similar to those of the group to which I'd been assigned even though I have the same genes in all three places."

On May 22 of this year, Jones delivered her presentation titled "Social Determinants of Equity and Social Determinants of Health" at a conference on "Innovations in Practice and Policy to End Infant Mortality Disparities," during the Higher Knowledge, Higher Service - First College to Community Health Outreach Week in Memphis, Tenn.

Jones says that in the United States being perceived as white is associated with better health. In her presentation Jones cited a 2004 survey of general health status, by self-identified and socially-assigned "race," in which people were asked to report excellent or very good health. Among participants, 39.8 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Hispanic and whom others saw as Hispanic said they were in excellent or very good health; 53.7 percent of those who self identified as Hispanic but other people saw as white said they were in excellent or very good health; and 58.6 percent of respondents who self identified as white and other people saw as white said they were in excellent or very good health. The numbers are similar when comparing American Indians or Alaska Natives (AIAN) to whites.

In the first section of her presentation, Jones talked about the need to understand the many levels of health interventions using the analogy of a person walking along a path and then falling off the cliff of good health. An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff represented medical care and tertiary prevention; a net or trampoline halfway down represented safety net programs and secondary prevention; a fence at the edge represented primary prevention; and moving the population away from the edge of the cliff represented adjusting the social determinants of health.

However, Jones says the cliff analogy does not explain how health disparities arise. For her, health disparities arise on three levels: differences in quality of care received within the health care system; differences in access to health care; and differences in life opportunities and stresses that make some individuals and communities sicker than others.

Read more on the Office of Minority Health website. Download Dr. Jones' presentation (pdf).

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