October 21, 2011 OHA Director's messages on the web
To: All OHA employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

Working on health disparities

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Leroy Patton and Bruce Goldberg
Leroy Patton at the Office of Multicultural Health and Services open house this week.

Last week Tricia Tillman, head of our Office of Multicultural Health and Services (soon to be renamed Office of Equity and Inclusion), presented the "State of Equity" report to the Oregon Health Policy Board. As I wrote a few weeks ago, 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.

Reducing or eliminating health disparities is a key goal for our agency and the board. In Oregon, no one's health should suffer because of unequal access to care. Nor should their health be harmed by environmental factors that are found disproportionately in some communities.

During the discussion about the State of Equity report, board members made it clear if Coordinated Care Organizations are to be successful for the people they serve – all the people they serve – they need to address this and be certain they don't carry this problem forward. The board also discussed the need for incentives through the global budget so that CCOs will seek out means to reduce or eliminate these disparities.

This continues to be a theme in the evening work group meetings. The discussions reveal the widely held belief that the governance and metrics for a CCO have to be based on and reflect the real needs of the community served. There is no "one size fits all" model. There is much more work to be done, both in eliminating disparities and in the development of CCOs.

And as that work continues, the Oregon Health Policy Board is receiving input from the 133 people serving on our CCO work groups, along with the comments from the statewide tour that ended last week and those that we receive through our website at health.oregon.gov. The board will shortly begin drafting a business plan for CCO development that will be sent to the Legislature. However, before that, the draft plan will be sent to the work groups for comment. The board will then revise the draft and circulate it yet again.

I am proud of all the work that is going on and that health equity is so central to development of Coordinated Care Organizations. Righting this problem will make a real difference in the lives of many Oregonians and their families.

OHA on the web