Diabetes is one of the most serious health problems that face minority communities today. Compared to the general population, minority populations are disproportionately affected by diabetes, have higher rates of complications from diabetes and are often less able to get the care they need to manage their disease.
To help address this issue, the American Diabetes Association has many programs and resources for African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Equipped with better knowledge of the causes and complications of diabetes, those at risk can make more informed lifestyle choices and avoid this debilitating disease.
April is National Minority Health Month, and we think it is the perfect time to call on everyone to join us in helping to reduce health disparities. As part of our work, we are thrilled to announce that we are teaming up with the Office of Minority Health to better coordinate our efforts and to join together in the fight to Stop Diabetes®. J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently spoke with us about this exciting collaboration.
Can you explain what the Office for Minority Health (OMH) does?
OMH is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. We address issues such as preventive care, access to quality health services, cultural competency in the health workforce, data collection on minority health, environmental justice and disparities in chronic disease – such as those seen in diabetes.
What type of work will your office be doing with the Association?
OMH and the Association share common goals: reducing the burden of diabetes, empowering individuals and communities to manage their own health and ensuring that everyone has a chance to live a healthy life. There are many ways in which our work intersects, and it makes sense for us to share our expertise and join forces in addressing these issues. Reducing disparities in diabetes is a challenge, but I truly believe that if we combine our efforts, we can achieve this goal.
One specific area that we are addressing together is reducing the number of amputations due to diabetes in minority populations, which experience higher rates of lower extremity amputations. We will work to increase awareness about proper foot care and help patients with diabetes access the care they need so that they can “stay on their own two feet.” It is a fitting time for us to start this work, since April is also Limb Loss Awareness Month.
This year’s theme for National Minority Health Month is “Health Equity Can’t Wait.” What types of things can people do to?
There are many things that people can do to celebrate this month, and if you visit us online, you will find information about local community events happening across the country. You can also take our online pledge and add your voice to others around the country that are working to achieve health equity.
Lastly, you can equip yourself with the knowledge you need to be your own health advocate: knowing what causes diabetes, what places you at risk and what are the steps you can take to lower the risk of complications.
So this month, get involved and celebrate National Minority Health Month as we all work together to raise awareness about health equity – because health equity is too important to wait.
Dr. J. Nadine Gracia is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health (Acting) and the Acting Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Office is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.
A pediatrician with epidemiology training, Dr. Gracia has served in academic medicine and government. From 2009 to 2011, she was the Chief Medical Officer for the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH). She provided programmatic and policy leadership and coordination of a portfolio that included child and adolescent health, climate change, disaster preparedness, environmental health, global health, Haiti recovery, and the White House Council on Women and Girls. Most recently, she led the development of HHS’ draft 2012 environmental justice strategy, which addresses the disproportionate exposure of minority and low-income communities and Indian tribes to environmental hazards and promotes healthy community environments.
In 2008-2009, Dr. Gracia was one of fourteen White House Fellows and was assigned to HHS, where she worked in OASH and the Office of the Secretary. During the last two months of the fellowship, she was a policy advisor in the Office of the First Lady, assisting in the development of the childhood obesity initiative.
Previously, Dr. Gracia was a clinical instructor and general pediatrics research fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, conducting research on community risk factors for violence. She received a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania and a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Gracia completed pediatrics residency and served as Chief Pediatrics Resident at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She is board-certified in pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Gracia is an advocate for minority and vulnerable populations and lectures nationwide on health disparities and children’s health. She is a National President Emeritus of the Student National Medical Association and a past Postgraduate Physician Trustee of the National Medical Association. A first-generation Haitian-American, Dr. Gracia earned a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in French at Stanford University.