Welcome to CDC OMHHE’s New Blog: Conversations In Equity! In this 1st Blog Post, Dr. Leandris C. Liburd, Director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health & Health Equity (OMHHE) explains what she does.
An awkward pause often precedes my response to the question “So, what do you do?” Describing in plain language what we do to address health disparities and reduce the high burden of preventable disease and premature death experienced by communities of color and other population groups is rarely a quick response.
Helping people understand why these disparities persist, sharing effective public health approaches for reducing this burden, and showing how what we do in CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) ultimately impacts health outcomes in communities is often challenging and never achieved in the time it takes an elevator door to close.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first established our Office of Minority Health in 1988 through the advocacy of minority scientists and public health practitioners and the support of then agency director, Dr. James Mason. Since its inception, our office has championed a number of initiatives and collaborations that have helped to institutionalize a focus on minority health, eliminating health disparities, and more recently, achieving health equity.
Our mission –to accelerate the work of CDC and our partners in improving health by eliminating health disparities, promoting conditions conducive to health, and achieving health equity– is long-term, cross-cutting, and dynamic. I, along with my colleagues in OMHHE, maintain a strong conviction that there is no more important component of public health than eliminating preventable health disparities and pursuing health equity.
We work closely with CDC’s national centers, institutes and offices to:
1. Promote the dissemination and scaling up of evidence-based interventions and other population-based strategies that reduce and eliminate health disparities,
2. Advance the science and practice of health equity,
3. Build national and global partnerships to address health inequalities, and
4. Ensure federal policy initiatives in support of health equity, such as Healthy People 2020, the National Partnership for Action, and the National Prevention Strategy, are integrated into CDC programs.
So, why the pause when I start to talk about what I do? Well, people who live in communities with a high burden of disease see and experience every day what we take great care to describe in our surveillance reports. So, I don’t need to talk about the burden with them. There are others who don’t live in these communities, who aren’t aware of health disparities, who become interested in these problems and their root causes once we’ve had a dialogue.
There is sometimes a real disconnect between the prevention work of public health and the day-to-day experiences of ordinary people. In other words, a good day in public health is when the spread of any disease or risk factor is prevented; and people typically don’t recognize or necessarily value something that never happened. Imagine our efforts in communities being so successful that health equity is the norm! It will take all of us working together to make this a reality. What are you willing to do?
This Blog entry is Cross Posted on the HHS OMH NPA Blog