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DHS Releases First Racial Equity Report; Commits to Addressing Racism and Health Disparities across PA

January 22, 2021

This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) released its first Racial Equity Report highlighting the department’s efforts to address racism and health disparities across its programs and services. 

In the 18-page report, DHS Secretary Teresa Miller cites the tragic murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed as a clear catalyst for change, showing the need for “important and overdue conversations about systemic racism, overt and covert racism, and both conscious and unconscious bias.”

“This must be a call to action for all of us to use our privilege and our position to try to make the world a better place for everyone,” Secretary Miller said in a statement. “DHS has an incredibly broad reach that gives us the opportunity to impact people and these social determinants of health across their lifespan, and we are committed to not letting this opportunity slip away.” 

The report outlines the department’s strategies to address health disparities and racism, including:

  • Health Equity: Support care providers, programs, and organizations that improve health outcomes, with a particular focus on closing racial health disparities during childbirth and prenatal care
  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity at DHS: Prioritize diversity in the nearly 16,000-employee department, including within executive and management roles
  • Economic Justice: Connect Pennsylvanians with services and resources that can help them transition out of poverty

In Pennsylvania, DHS serves more than 3 million people directly through its programs and administers Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The report also discusses strategies to address inequities in the state’s child welfare, juvenile justice, and early education programs.

The DHS report comes at a critical time as the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified concerns about equity in health care. Across the nation, Americans of color face higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death than White Americans, and appear less likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine thus far.

During the last year, HAP has offered educational sessions and training to address health disparities and unconscious bias in patient care, and will continue to work with the state’s hospitals and health systems to address these critical issues.

For more information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president, strategic integration, or Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.