Senate Labor's Chair Introduces Bill to Battle Health Inequities

Attendees of last week's American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo in Philadelphia heard keynote speaker Linda Rae Murray, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer of Primary Care and Community Health for the Cook County, Ill., Ambulatory and Community Health Network, urge their profession to join the fight against public health inequities that affect African-Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups. Within days, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and several colleagues introduced a bill to authorize about $500 million toward that goal.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., joined Kennedy in introducing the bill. Co-sponsors are Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sherrod Brown, and Dick Durbin, who is the Senate's assistant majority leader. "Your health should not depend on the color of your skin, the size of your bank account or where you live," Kennedy said. "It is time to stop talking about health disparities and take action to eliminate them. All Americans, including people of color, deserve an opportunity for a healthy life."

The bill, entitled the Minority Health Improvement and Health Disparity Elimination Act, would give grants to communities to increase public awareness about access to health care and disease prevention. It also reauthorizes the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health and strengthens its role in health disparity research. It reauthorizes programs that help schools recruit and retain minority students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds while reauthorizing the Office of Minority Health, and it creates an advisory committee at FDA to address issues related to minorities.

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