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Commission on Minority Health asks for more supports to fight disparities




Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Racial disparities impact minorities from birth to death, everything from infant mortality to transportation to housing.

The Ohio Commission on Minority Health has been trying to intervene to improve outcomes, and for that it needs more funding. Funding the effort could save the state money.

“Our cost of health disparities is extremely significant for the state of Ohio and the nation,” said Angela Dawson, executive director of the commission.

Health disparities, which are the differences between rates of disease occurrence, prevalence, morbidity and mortality compared with other populations, have been raised by advocacy groups before and after the budget process this year, since Ohio remains among the lowest ranked for infant and maternal mortality, and the pandemic only exacerbated disparities in the state, according to experts.

“Factors impacting health disparities include inadequate access to health care; poor utilization of care; substandard quality of care and social economic status,” Dawson told the Senate Health Committee.

Closing the gap on the disparities has been the main goal of the commission, but not just through pushing policy changes in the legislature, but through getting into the communities to bring the same kind of access to care that other more accessible areas receive.

“If we were to just have a modicum of improvement, we can save millions of dollars, but we have to be able to intervene with communities to increase their health literacy so we can change the ability of that community to support health,” Dawson said.

With less than 5% of health care funding geared toward health prevention, Dawson said intervention is needed to promote screening and health exams, especially with certain diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, disproportionately affection people of color.

Another significant cost to the state is pre-term birth, which the Department of Medicaid spends hundreds of millions of dollars on annually. Dawson cited 2013 data from the agency that showed $596 million in prenatal and delivery care with $373 million related to the preterm birth rate.

That’s why the commission began its Pathways Community Hub Model, which provides “community-based care coordination services” in 23 counties through the use of 12 hubs in the state.

In the hubs, certified community health workers focus on high-risk mothers to help with prenatal clinical care, along with “education, employment, housing, behavioral health and other linkages to essential services,” according to Dawson.

A Buckeye Health Plan study of infant deliveries from 2013-2017 studied the impact of the hub in Toledo, and showed a 236% return on investment for patients of all risk levels.

“We don’t just place a hub anywhere, we place a hub where there is a justification of a specific number of pre-term births in that area,” according to Dawson.

But the hub model needs to expand to be able to reach more counties. Though it is certified to reach 55 counties, the funding only allows for service to the 23 counties, according to the commission.

With a 35% increase to the $3 million to their current requested by the commission, Dawson said 3,000 high-risk pregnant women, specifically Black women, could be served.

“The commission continues to be a good steward of the state’s resources through focused efforts to increase access to chronic disease prevention programs and expansion and expansion of care coordination efforts to reduce preterm birth, which can yield improved health outcomes and a return on investment,” Dawson said.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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