The world lost a great leader with the passing of Nelson Mandela. He spent his life fighting against the disparities that come from structures and systems that elevate some people over others.
When I reflect on his legacy, it brings to mind that our health inequities are painfully apparent in a system where our health is dramatically affected by what we cannot control: where we are born, our skin color and our ethnic heritage.
African Americans and Native Americans in Oregon have higher rates of hospitalization than others in our state. Only 50 percent of Native American women enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan were screened for cervical cancer in the past three years. Rural Oregon has less access to primary care than urban areas. Addressing the social determinants of health comes with challenges that can seem impossible to overcome. Until we do it.
With each small step we take, we get are getting closer to addressing health disparities. Collecting data is one of the seemingly small, yet critical, first steps. The November Health System Transformation Quarterly Report was a starting point. For the first time, we had baseline race and ethnicity data from across the state. Collecting these data is the beginning of understanding variation and disparity by race and ethnicity. The data showed us there are broad disparities for many metrics. It also will help point us to opportunities.
We're also making progress as more Oregonians gain access to health care coverage. And under the coordinated care model, more Oregonians will have care that is focused on prevention and better health. Through coordinated care, more partners outside of the health care system are coming to the table to support an environment of health. This includes early learning, housing and more, because we know health comes from more than what happens in the health care system.
We each have a role in identifying opportunities and taking on these challenges. Thanks to every one of you for doing the work that is impossible – until it is done.