Earlier this month, the Health Authority and the Department of Human Services released a State of Equity report that measured whether there are disparities in health and human services for Oregonians of different race and ethnicity.
The report shows there are disparities in many areas in our state, particularly for African Americans and Native Americans.
Among the key findings: African Americans and Native American adults experience much higher rates of unnecessary hospitalization, an indication of lack of preventive care or other health services. They also have higher smoking rates and are less likely to be employed after completing substance-abuse treatment programs.
It is very disturbing that the system doesn't treat everyone equally and that something so fundamental as receiving care that will keep you out of the hospital too often depends on who you are.
But that's exactly why we did this report, and it's just the first step. If we are truly going to achieve our goal of bringing health equity into the Oregon Health Plan and to all care in Oregon, we have to start with the health care and human services that we either fund or manage. We have to, in essence, walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
The State of Equity report also measures whether people believe they have received excellent customer service from OHA and DHS – which is our goal. There are definite disparities, but across the board we need to increase satisfaction and look at how we can best help the people on the front lines who are working to help clients.
There also are areas where there are no disparities or where we are doing better than earlier measurements. For example, prevention rates for youths and adults on OHP show no disparity with regard to race and ethnicity. We need to look at these successes to see if there are things we can learn and apply to the areas that need improvement.
We will continue to report on this and to work toward improving things. In the meantime, I would like for everyone to please read the entire State of Equity report. We all need to understand this issue fully and work together to ensure that we are truly providing equal services to all.