Addressing Health Disparities and Inequities

CEO Message – March 2021

Every April, National Minority Health Month seeks to increase discussion and action to address health disparities and inequities that continue to affect communities of color in the U.S. This year’s theme, #VaccineReady, comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has upended daily life and resulted in the deaths of more than 542,000 people.
This devastating pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Latinx communities, dramatically increased violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans, and shown us, ultimately, how deeply woven white supremacy and implicit racism are within the policies, systems, and environments of our communities.
Yet, even if we change a system, for the better, we must still build trust within it. This is why we feel our work on health equity, in partnership with local communities, is so critical. For example, our nine mini-grants (distributed at up to $25,000 each) are supporting states to advance racial and health equity within their own institutions. One such grantee, the Massachusetts Department of Health, is working on changing the way they hire candidates – from their job posting language, to interview questions, candidate selection, and their interview panel composition.
NACDD and its Health Equity Council are soon releasing a professional development podcast series aimed at improving NACDD Member capacity and understanding of how to advance anti-racism as a core component of chronic disease programing. Featuring national thought-leaders, ‘Race Toward Health,’ will be available for free download on NACDD’s website,, and on Soundcloud.
Registration for our next Gear Group, â€˜Not Racist is Not Enough: Journey Toward Anti-Racism’ is open and closes April 6. 
On Thurs., April 29 at 12 p.m.  ET, Members can join a webinar and panel discussion with author Richard Rothstein and NACDD Board President, Dr. Susan Kansagra to discuss Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law.
A conversation with Denise Octavia-Smith, MBA, CHW, PN, the Founding Executive Director of the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW), is scheduled for May 2021, details forthcoming. Denise spoke at our Fifth Annual Public Health Showcase in our “Mental Health and Combating Burnout for State Health Staff During COVID-19 and other National Emergencies” panel.
And earlier this year, 2021, Dr. Kansagra, NACDD’s Board President, announced her challenge for chronic disease directors to advance racial equity.Twenty states signed onto the challenge and we celebrate their commitment to this critical work:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Advancing racial equity is a focus of our organization and centered in our 2021-2022 Strategic Plan. We continue to urge our profession to center anti-racism in its approaches, through acknowledging declarations of racism as a public health crisis in individual states and localities, celebrating diverse leadership nominations within HHS as well as our more recent condemnation of anti-Asian violence.
Confronting racism is perennial work. It does not end after a news cycle concludes, but is a steady, intentional effort that involves some level of personal introspection and development. We must rise to these challenges because everyone in America should have the chance to live a healthy life, regardless of who they are, how they came here, or what languages they speak.

In Good Health and Gratitude,
John W. Robitscher, MPH
Chief Executive Officer

Read more from the March 2021 issue of Impact Brief below.

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