Ed. note: This was posted on the blog for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
America is often described as the land of opportunity because of the untold possibilities that await those who seek its treasures. Women’s History Month in March is an opportune time for all women to awaken and pursue their highest potential. And there are great examples that line the path of our nation’s history, from a woman who discovered a new medical breakthrough to one who motivated a classroom of students to press on toward success, to the mother who worked tirelessly to care for her family.
Earlier this month a significant event held by the White House and the Smithsonian Institution took place to help inspire the current generation of women and girls of color (and their peers) to explore our nation’s historical and cultural treasures and explore their paths to greatness. This recent collaboration, and other initiatives including the White House Council on Women and Girls (Council), illustrates how this Administration is expanding opportunities for all women and girls, including women and girls of color.
President Obama established the Council in March 2009 to institute a coordinated federal response to issues that particularly impact the lives of women and girls. Today, the Council is focused on interventions in five areas that promote opportunities for success at school, work and the community level for women and girls of color: fostering school success and reducing unnecessary exclusionary school discipline; meeting the needs of vulnerable and striving youth; inclusive STEM education; sustaining reduced rates of teen pregnancy and building on success; and economic prosperity.
The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health is a committed partner with the White House, the HHS Office on Women’s Health and other federal agencies, and key community-driven initiatives such as the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities(NPA), in addressing the opportunity gaps that impact the health and well-being of minority women and our nation. These efforts extend across many sectors—from health care and housing, to education and employment—to address the conditions that impact health including the social, economic and environmental conditions where people live, learn, work and play.
Through the work of the NPA, the Office of Minority Health is combating health disparities through a collaborative multi-sector approach that targets the conditions that make a difference in the health outcomes of minority populations. We look to the leadership of those who connect health to their everyday work—like Dr. Tiffany Anderson, the superintendent of schools for the Jennings, MO, school district, who has made it her mission to ensure that students’ basic needs are met so they can learn. Students perform better academically when we address the factors that directly affect their learning such as secure housing and access to health care and healthy foods. And better prepared students make for a more competitive America on the global economic stage.
There are many other stories of women and girls of color that will be woven throughout the history of America. During Women’s History Month, and throughout the year, I am proud to join with the voices that lift up the lives of women and girls across our great nation—because their success serves as a beacon of light to illuminate the path toward greatness for future generations.
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).