The Seventh Annual National Conference on Health Disparities will take place November 13-16, 2013, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Like its six predecessors, the 2013 conference will focus on policies and programs to reduce health disparities, with several panels addressing issues of particular importance in the Caribbean region. Presenters will emphasize the role of social determinants, personal responsibility and prevention in initiatives that reduce disparities.
Why is this conference important to all Americans, and not just our nation’s minority citizens? Over time, our nation’s healthcare providers and policy makers have come to understand that the wellbeing of each American impacts the well-being of all Americans. Truly healthy communities and their citizen-leaders recognize the roles human health, environmental quality, environmental justice and economic development play in overall community development and well-being. Moreover, at a time when our nation’s traditional “sick-care” medical model may be unsustainable, a comprehensive “wellcare” approach, recognizing social determinants and emphasizing prevention and personal responsibility, may augment the existing system, reduce disparities and restore much-needed balance to the national dialogue on healthcare.
From 2007 through 2012, national conferences in Charleston, SC (2007, 2011); St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA, and Little Rock, AR, have brought together diverse partners, presenters and attendees to share their knowledge of health disparities. These programs have uncovered and told a much larger story: that social determinants, such as race, poverty, low education levels, public safety, environmental quality and inadequate housing, are major contributors to health disparities. These findings suggest the potential benefits of rededicating a portion of America’s healthcare resources to programs that emphasize education, prevention and personal responsibility – each person’s willingness and capacity to make informed decisions that reduce the likelihood of disease development.
This program’s formal agenda and the chance for participants to interact in less structured settings offer opportunities to incorporate these understandings into policies and programs that reduce health disparities and enhance our nation’s overall health and well-being.