Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
November 14, 2008 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
An ongoing commitment to diversity

"Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions."
~Harold S. Geneen

Our agency has a commitment to diversity and it is up to all of us to demonstrate that our commitment is sincere and ongoing. As our client population increases in diversity we must match that trend by becoming a more multicultural workplace, and we are doing that. We also must ensure that our work and the services we provide are culturally competent. We are doing that as well. That is why, as the start of a renewed and ongoing effort to ensure cultural competency, all of us have completed a one-day cultural competency class.

Finally, we must do more to eliminate disparities in health, services and outcomes among our client groups. At its core, this is an issue of equity and social justice, and it is what I want to talk about today.

The health of our population and the outcomes we achieve in our programs should not differ by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or geographic location. When these differences do exist, and unfortunately they do, they are referred to as disparities, and a disparity is an inequality.

For example, although just 1 percent of kids in Oregon are African American and 1.5 percent are Native American, these children make up 7 percent and 10 percent of the children in foster care. Those same Native American children account for 5 percent of uninsured children in the state. Hispanic and rural youngsters also are over-represented among Oregon's uninsured kids.

If you are African American or Native American in Oregon you are twice as likely to have diabetes as the general population, and African Americans are twice as likely to die from diabetes. In 2004 only 69 percent of Hispanic women had prenatal care in the first trimester, compared to 84 percent of white women.

Hispanic teens are six times more likely than white teens to give birth. The infant mortality rate for African Americans is twice that of white babies. Forty percent of African American men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease, compared to 21 percent of white men.

These disparities among Oregon's population groups are a call to action and we at DHS have an obligation to do all we can to eliminate disparities. To do so will require a comprehensive strategy incorporating research, education, policy changes, changes in how we do our work and community partnerships, which will be fundamental to accomplishing this goal. As Oregon grows more diverse, it becomes even more urgent that we tackle this issue.

This is an issue that spans DHS and all of our programs. That's why I've moved the Office of Multicultural Health and Services (OMHS) into the Director's Office, and we have been recruiting for an OMHS Administrator who can lead our efforts to better serve diverse populations and eliminate disparities.

We must become better service providers for every Oregonian. We must seek new and creative ways to reach out to the full range of individuals who live in Oregon, and to find new partners who can help. Oregon is depending on all of us.

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