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January 17, 2006 • Volume 3 / Number 3 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Guest Commentary by Dr. Garth Graham

OMH Conference Energizes Minority Health Leaders

One of the most overlooked aspects of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, civil rights agenda was his call to action on health. He once said, "Of all forms of inequity, injustice in health is the most inhumane."

Dr. Garth Graham, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at HHSOn January 9-11, to perpetuate Dr. King's legacy, HHS brought nearly 2,000 researchers; academicians; faith- and community-based health representatives; and state, local and federal government officials to the nation's capital for a national conference on eliminating health disparities. The 2006 National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health marked the 20th anniversary of the Office of Minority Health (OMH), HHS's lead office on health disparities. NCI, which has identified addressing cancer health disparities as a priority, served as a cosponsor of the conference.

Attendees from around the country spent 3 days building and strengthening partnerships, exchanging ideas, sharing best practices, and advancing policies to improve the health of America's racial and ethnic minority communities.

The 2006 Summit also was an opportunity for broadening the health disparities agenda and discourse from the more traditional disease-focused approach to an issue-based approach.

The conference featured more than 96 workshops and special institutes on current and emerging health issues in the areas of health care access, utilization, and quality; health care and the public workforce; research, data, and evaluation; health information technology; health disparities across the lifespan; and culture, language, and health literacy. Specific issues that were examined included the quality of care provided to racial and ethnic minorities, patient/provider interactions and relationships, developing health technologies in minority communities, and workforce diversity.

The deliberations on these health issues will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for health policies and programs targeting the elimination of health disparities.

Several NCI staff served as moderators for workshop sessions, and NCI Deputy Director Dr. Mark Clanton presented one of the prestigious Minority Health Community Leadership Awards on January 10 to two-time cancer survivor and African American businessman Robert Samuels, for his efforts to educate black men about prostate cancer as founder of the National Prostate Coalition. Mr. Samuels, who built a career in banking and finance, has survived both prostate and throat cancer.

Created by HHS in response to the landmark 1985 Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health, OMH works to improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations by advising on and coordinating HHS minority health promotions, research, policies, and programs to address health disparities. Since its establishment, OMH has collaborated with many HHS divisions; national, local, tribal, and other partner organizations; and individuals in myriad settings across the country.

To view the conference webcast, go to

More information on OMH can be found at For information on NCI's efforts to reduce cancer health disparities, go to

Dr. Garth Graham
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services