The Commission to End Health Care Disparities, inspired by the Institute of Medicine Report, "Unequal Treatment," recognizes that health care disparities exist due to multiple factors, including race and ethnicity. We will collaborate proactively to increase awareness among physicians and health professionals; use evidence-based and other strategies; and advocate for action, including governmental, to eliminate disparities in health care and strengthen the health care system.
Aided by the work of the Commission and its member organizations, physicians, health professionals and health systems will provide quality care to all people.
In 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched Healthy People 2010 (HP 2010) which had two broad goals: to improve the overall health status of Americans and to eliminate racial and ethnic health care disparities. Explicit in this effort was the need to address disparities in access to health care and in the quality of health services delivered to at-risk communities.
HHS officials said the American Medical Association (AMA) was ideally positioned to bring national leadership to initiatives in disease prevention and health promotion while working to eliminate health care disparities. In December 2000, the first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the AMA and the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) was signed in support of HP 2010.
In signing this historic memorandum, the AMA agreed to raise awareness of health disparities and the importance of understanding culturally competent health care and health literacy by working with state medical societies, medical schools, medical students and policymakers. In 2002, the AMA-House of Delegates (HOD) approved a resolution to make the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health care a high-priority issue. The resolution acted as a catalyst in establishing an early framework for the Commission. Another major step toward the formation of the Commission to End Health Care Disparities took place Oct. 7, 2003, when the AMA convened a meeting of the Task Force on Disparities in Health Care. This meeting was the culmination of efforts that began with the early work under the MOU supporting the goals of HP 2010.
The task force met a second time, in April 2004, with the AMA and the National Medical Association (NMA) serving as co-chairs of the meeting. Task force members chose to focus their efforts on four areas: increase awareness of disparities, promote better data gathering related to race, ethnicity and language; promote work force diversity and increase education and training around disparities. A new name—the Commission to End Health Care Disparities—was adopted to illustrate unity in a continuing effort to eliminate health care inequalities based on race and ethnicity.
On July 30, 2004, the formally organized Commission to End Health Care Disparities convened its first meeting. Commission members agreed that the presidents of the AMA and the NMA would serve as co-chairs. A secretariat composed of staff from the AMA, NMA and NHMA and coordinated through the AMA would provide administrative support for the Commission.