By the time you read this, our nation’s historic presidential election will have taken place and we will have a new president and administration in Washington, D.C. Regardless of which party is leading this great nation, health-care reform is sure to be one of the top domestic issues.
People are worried about access and affordability of high-quality health care, and both parties have promised to develop better plans and strategies for making health care available and affordable to all.
Among African-Americans and other minorities, the issue is of even more importance, as these groups traditionally have been underserved by the medical community.
The National Association of Health Services Executives, which promotes the advancement and development of Black health-care leaders, has sponsored and participated in local and national programs and projects designed to improve the quality, access to and availability of health services and expand educational opportunities in the field of health-services administration.
As NAHSE’s new executive director, I am committed to working toward these two main objectives: increasing minorities’ access to health care and increasing the number of Black health-care executives in the nation’s top hospitals and health organizations.
Although health-care executives do not make direct decisions about patient care, they are responsible for allocating resources and for making other choices that affect the delivery of health-care services.
The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Minority Health & Disparities (OMHD) tell the tale of minorities’ disproportionate rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases that could bring death if untreated. For example, according to OMHD:
The nation’s infant mortality rate is down, but the infant death rate among African-Americans is still more than double that of whites;
Heart disease death rates are more than 40 percent higher for African-Americans than for whites;
The death rate for all cancers is 30 percent higher for African-Americans than for whites; for prostate cancer, it is more than double that for whites;
African-American women have a higher death rate from breast cancer, despite having a mammography screening rate that is nearly the same as the rate for white women;
The death rate from HIV/AIDS for African-Americans is more than seven times that for whites. Sadly, many who lack access to health care not only are not treated, but they also are never screened. As a result, by the time a problem is caught, it might be at a more advanced, treatment resistant stage.
NAHSE’s two main goals — increasing minorities’ access to health care and increasing the number of health-care executives — are intertwined. Without African-Americans in positions to make decisions that could help close health-care gaps, our communities will continue to be underserved. In working toward these goals, NAHSE is committed to diversifying the health-care field by providing professional and educational programs, an online career center and mentoring, student internships and scholarships, and expanding business contracting opportunities.
In October, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with our 23rd Annual Education Conference, Business Meeting, Exhibition and Diversity Recruitment Expo, which was held in Atlanta.
This year’s conference theme, “Closing the Healthcare Divide to Improve Health Outcomes: The Integration of Services, Technology, Finance and Training,” embraced our mission of promoting the advancement and development of Black health-care leaders by featuring some of today’s leading Black executives in health care, as we discussed elevating the quality of health-care services rendered to minority and underserved communities.
NAHSE’s leadership remains committed to taking these steps and more to helping bridge the gap in the delivery of health-care services.
Yes, health-care reform gained currency in this election year, but for NAHSE, the quest for minority representation at the executive levels and top-notch health care at all levels of society did not end on Election Day.
Charlisa R. Watson, M.A.-health services administration, is the executive director of the National Association of Health Services Executives, located at www.nahse.org.