Minority Health: 30 Years After Heckler

1985 was a year worth remembering. Huey Lewis & the News revealed “The Power of Love”; Tears for Fears told us to “Shout”; we spent a Saturday with The Breakfast Club; nobody liked New Coke. That same year, the Department of Health and Human Services published the famous Heckler Report and to honor its 30th anniversary this National Minority Health Month, we look back to see what’s changed since its original publication.

As Secretary Burwell wrote in her most recent op-ed, the health community has made great strides in addressing health disparities:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services made health literacy a priority. 
  • Since the Affordable Care Act passed, the uninsured rate has dropped 9.2% among African-Americans.
  • The Latino community has seen a dramatic 12.3% drop in the same time.


But, as a nation, we can do more. We still see large gaps in education and access to care with many minority groups. African-Americans have the highest mortality rates for cancer. In 2012, the tuberculosis rate was 15 times higher among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and 24 times higher for Asian-Americans. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Hispanic adults remain 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic white adults. And these statistics only represent a few of the inequalities we have to address. 

As we consider the Heckler Report, we take pride in the advances we have made in lessening health inequalities. However, we have a long way to go to ensure that the steps taken to improve public health represent the diversity of our society.