Virginia Department of Health puts spotlight on minority healthcare

healthcareThe Virginia Department of Health Office of Minority Health and Health Equity hosted an event on Friday celebrating April as Minority Health Month in Virginia.

The event took place at the Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center and began with a presentation of the signed gubernatorial proclamation by Secretary of Health and Human Resources, the Honorable William A. Hazel, Jr., MD. Dr. Hazel also made remarks about the importance of focusing on the health of all minorities in Virginia.

“For the three leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer and stroke – mortality rates in Virginia are 30 percent higher for blacks than they are for whites and 27 percent higher for all causes of death,” said Dr. Hazel. “The opportunity to be healthy is not equally available to all people living in all places in Virginia. It’s time we bring awareness to this injustice.”

The event continued with honoring two champions of equity in the tribal communities.  Elder Sharon Day of Minneapolis, who also conducted a water ceremony at the event, is a nationally recognized health champion whose water walks around the United States highlight the link between health and nature. Narinder S. Arora, MD, is a pulmonologist practicing in Charlottesville, who started the Healing Eagle Clinic on the Mattaponi reservation in King William. He has travelled the 150 miles between his home and the reservation twice a month for the past 20 years in order to provide members of the tribal communities with medical care at no cost.

The event culminated in a listening session (similar to a town hall), which served as an open forum for Virginia’s tribal communities to discuss matters of health with leaders of various state agencies.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for government officials to interact with our state’s native tribes and hear the concerns they have about the well-being of their communities,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “The listening session provided valuable insight on the concerns of Virginia’s tribal communities.  Having healthy, connected communities is one aim of Virginia’s state health improvement plan, the Plan for Well-Being. Having important discussions about health concerns, like the one we had today, opens the door for improving overall health for all Virginians.”

The theme for National Minority Health Month 2016 is “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health leads national minority health month efforts to raise awareness of the health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minorities and how the country is working together to accelerate health equity.

         
 

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