SOURCE: National Business Group on Health

National Business Group on Health

April 20, 2009 11:30 ET

National Business Group on Health Releases Issue Brief on Health Disparities

Brief Intended to Help Employers Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - April 20, 2009) - The National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of more than 300 large U.S. employers, today released an Issue Brief, "Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: A Business Case Update for Employers," part of a two-year major initiative to help employers reduce racial and ethnic health disparities in the workplace and improve the quality of health care for minority populations.

In early 2008, the National Business Group on Health (Business Group) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) announced a two-year effort to strengthen ongoing partnerships and build new business-community coalitions to help reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. One outcome of this initiative was the development of information and tools, including an issue brief, to help employers address disparities.

"Some employers go to great lengths to attract a diverse workforce. But they may not realize that these populations have diverse health needs and may experience different treatments when they seek health care," said Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health. "Despite employers' best intentions, the fact is that disparities in health and health care exist, even among employees with equal benefits. We believe this issue brief will be an important tool to help employers take on the challenge of reducing health disparities."

"The Issue Brief on Health Disparities comes at an ideal time," said Garth Graham, M.D., M.P.H. deputy assistant secretary for minority health, DHHS. "Many cannot afford to continue shouldering the costs and consequences of unnecessary and unequal health care."

Dr. Graham also said that some people simply are not aware that health disparities exist. "A recent survey of NBGH members found that only one third believed that reducing disparities was an important issue," Graham said. "The survey also found that few employers had a strategy or program for addressing health disparities or had undertaken efforts to make employees aware of strategies they had available to address disparities," he added.

The 18-page Issue Brief defines health disparities, identifies the key factors that contribute to disparities, discusses how disparities affect employers, and provides the rationale for employer efforts to address disparities and how employers stand to benefit in both direct and indirect costs. The Issue Brief also examines the role employers can play as part of the health disparities solution including a step-by-step strategy that includes understanding the legal myths and realities around collecting racial and ethnic data, determining what data to collect, measure and use, and how to work with employees, health plans and health care vendors. Health disparities resources for employees and health providers are also included in the Issue Brief.

"Health disparities affect all employers, and failure to address them will seriously hurt the health, productivity and quality of life of their employees and dependents. By addressing disparities, employers can improve the value of the services their employees are receiving through their health benefits, and health and productivity programs and services," concluded Ms. Darling.

Copies of the Issue Brief are available at www.businessgrouphealth.org.

About the National Business Group on Health

The National Business Group on Health is the nation's only non-profit, membership organization of large employers devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to their most important health care and related benefits issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. For more information about the Business Group, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org.

About The Office of Minority Health

The Office of Minority Health aims to accelerate HHS' health impact in the U.S population and to eliminate health disparities for vulnerable populations as defined by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geography, gender, age, disability status, risk status related to gender, and among other populations identified to be at-risk for health disparities. For more information, visit www.omhrc.gov/npa.

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