A bill filed in Congress yesterday provides hundreds of tools to address the disgraceful health disparities that plague our communities and deprive so many people of color of long, healthy lives.

The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA) was introduced by leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It builds on the expansions of coverage in the Affordable Care Act, the health equity initiatives of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and activities to enhance community health underway across the country. In fact, many ideas from a version of the bill introduced in a previous Congress were incorporated into the ACA.

The new bill, HR 2954, includes creative measures to improve the health of families of all backgrounds by eliminating barriers to care, promoting better ways to provide care, expanding and diversifying the health workforce, and addressing factors that deeply affect our health, such as the environment in which we live, work and play. It also includes steps to improve cultural and linguistic competency of care and enhancements to collection and analysis of data about health disparities. Advocates for health equity, including Community Catalyst and many other organizations, contributed ideas for the new legislation.

Our hope is that these ideas can be translated into initiatives that help reduce the disproportionate number of black infants dying in their first year of life, the disproportionate number of Hispanics suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes, and similar disparities. Studies show that reducing racial and ethnic health disparities not only saves lives but could save billions of dollars a year in medical costs .

Community Catalyst applauds the filing of the bill and encourages advocates and lawmakers to support its provisions. We will draw on the bill as we work with our partners nationwide to enhance health equity.

— Alice Dembner, Deputy Policy Director