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Kennedy, Cochran Introduce Bill to Eliminate Health Disparities Legislation will strengthen community efforts to address health disparities, health workforce diversity programs, and research on minority health

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Senator Thad Cochranintroduced legislation that would authorize roughly $500 million to improve the health andhealth care of racial and ethnic minority and other health disparity populations. The bill is alsoco-sponsored by Senators Barack Obama, Jeff Bingaman, Hillary Clinton, Sherrod Brown, andSenate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin. Senator Kennedy said, "Your health should not depend on the color of your skin, the ofyour bank account, or where you live. It is time to stop talking about health disparities andtake action to eliminate them. All Americans, including people of color, deserve anopportunity for a healthy life.” Senator Cochran added, "Congress must work to ensure that all Americans have theopportunity to receive quality healthcare. I am pleased to join in introducing this legislation,which would provide the education, training, research opportunities, and collaborative toolsnecessary to provide optimal care for all of our citizens." Racial and ethnic minorities make up approximately one third of the US population butdisproportionately comprise 52 percent of the uninsured and suffer a greater burden of illnessand death than the white population. The Minority Health Improvement and Health DisparityElimination Act proposes a comprehensive approach to address health disparities. It providesgrants to communities to increase public awareness about access to health care and diseaseprevention. The bill also reauthorizes the National Center on Minority Health and HealthDisparities at the National Institutes of Health and strengthens its role in coordinating andplanning minority health and health disparity research. Senator Kennedy was the lead sponsoron Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, which wasenacted into law and created the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities atNIH. Studies have shown that minority health professionals are more likely to care for patients fromminority and disadvantaged backgrounds and to provide culturally sensitive care, so creating adiverse healthcare workforce is essential for a health America. The bill would help achieve thatgoal by reauthorizing the programs that help schools recruit and retain minority students andstudents from disadvantaged backgrounds like the Title VII health workforce diversity, Centersof Excellence and Health Careers Opportunity programs. The bill also reauthorizes and strengthens the Office of Minority Health, mandates uniformdata collection standards for federal health programs and creates an advisory committee atthe FDA to address issues related to racial and ethnic minorities. -30-