The Department of Health and Human Services is launching initiatives aimed at reducing the disparity in healthcare provided minorities.

One, the “HHS Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities, outlines goals and actions HHS will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.

HHS also released the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity.

The latter is a common set of goals and objectives for public and private sector initiatives and partnerships to help racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved groups reach their full health potential.

The program, drafted by the National Partnership for Action, incorporates ideas, suggestions and comments from thousands of individuals and organizations across the country, HHS officials say. The NPA was coordinated by the HHS Office of Minority Health.

HHS officials say the goals of the HHS Action Plan include transforming health care and expanding access, building on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act related to expanded insurance coverage and increased access to care.

The plan also calls for more opportunities to increase the number of students from populations underrepresented in the health professions, train more people in medical interpretation to help serve patients with a limited command of English, and train community workers to help people navigate the system.

The plan also calls for HHS to set data standards and upgrade collection and analysis of data on race, ethnicity, primary language and other demographic categories that are consistent with provisions of the new healthcare reform law.

HHS officials say the new initiatives are being launched because racial and ethnic minorities lag behind in many health outcome measures.

“They are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy, more likely to suffer from serious illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease and, when they do get sick, are less likely to have access to quality health care,” HHS officials say.

The officials note the new healthcare reform law “offers the potential to address the needs of racial and ethnic minority populations, by bringing down health care costs, investing in prevention and wellness, supporting improvements in primary care, and creating linkages between the traditional realms of health and social services.”

In a statement, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says, “For the first time, the United States has a coordinated road map designed to give everyone the chance to live a healthy life.”

She adds that, “We all need to work together to combat this persistent problem so that we can build healthier communities and a stronger nation.”

In other health news, The National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., is voicing support for repeal of the healthcare reform law. Explaining its position, NAHU cites the “unworkable” medical loss ratio standards imposed through the legislation as well as the law’s lack of “meaningful cost controls.”