Health and Family Services Cabinet
Department for Public Health Earns $420,000 Grant for Health Equity
Award will Enhance Ongoing Work to Address Health Disparities, Improve Cultural Competency
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) will receive $420,000 in federal grant funding over the next three years to enhance ongoing work in the Health Equity Branch, focusing on improving cultural competency and eliminating health disparities among minority groups.
The grant funding will be used to implement a program focusing on two areas that have been identified as significant health disparities in the Commonwealth: diabetes among the Hispanic population and infant mortality among African-Americans. In addition, two full-time staff members will be added to DPH to focus on cultural and linguistic competency and data collection and health surveillance.
“Health disparities in Kentucky encompass a variety of populations from minority health issues to rural health issues,” said Torrie Harris, director of the health equity program for DPH. “These groups are underserved and lack equitable access to care. We’re working to learn more about where resources are lacking and what we can do to erase these gaps.”
The funding, $140,000 allocated every year over the next three years, is part of an award from the federal Department for Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Grant objectives include increasing awareness of the significance of health disparities; strengthening leadership for addressing disparities; improving health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities; improving cultural and linguistic competency; and improving coordination and use of research and evaluation.
Harris said the DPH Health Equity Branch chose diabetes and infant mortality as points of emphasis after data revealed significant health disparities in these areas. For example, from 2003-05, African-American infants had the highest infant mortality rate in Kentucky at 10.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. For non-Hispanic white infants, the rate was six deaths per 1,000 live births.
“Our work has revealed areas of significant disparities among minority groups,” said Harris. “We are focusing resources so that we can better understand the underlying causes and find ways to address contributing factors for disparities.”
The DPH Health Equity Branch was created two years ago to eliminate health disparities and promote health equity among racial and ethnic minorities, rural and low-income populations for Kentucky. According to the 2009 Kentucky Minority Health Status Report, the rate of population growth is increasing most rapidly for minority groups, specifically among the Hispanic population. The 2009 census data showed that minorities account for approximately 12 percent of the total population of the state.
“Now is the perfect time to expand our work to eradicate health disparities,” said DPH Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. “As we work to strengthen Kentucky’s public health infrastructure, it is incumbent upon us to understand the barriers that stand in the way of access to care, healthy lifestyles and, ultimately, long-term health and well-being for all Kentuckians. This program will help us achieve these goals.”