National and local programs that have succeeded in reducing or eliminating racial or ethnic health disparities are outlined in a new report published as a supplement to today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
“Reducing and eliminating health disparities is central to achieving the highest level of health for all people,” said Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes the MMWR. “We can close the gap when it comes to health disparities if we monitor the problem effectively and ensure that there is equal access to all proven interventions.”
Among the interventions described in the report is the Vaccines for Children program, which was authorized by Congress in 1994. The program provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children nationwide who otherwise might not be immunized.
Data from the National Immunization Survey show that no racial or ethnic disparities in vaccine coverage for measles-mumps-rubella and poliovirus have existed since 2005. Disparities still exist in coverage for the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis/diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine in some, but not all, racial or ethnic groups.
The report also describes 2 HIV prevention programs: Healthy Love, an intervention for heterosexual black women, and Many Men, Many Voices (3MV), which addresses HIV risk behaviors in black men who have sex with men.
The interactive Healthy Love program helped increase condom use among some participants for up to 6 months. Women in the program also were more than twice as likely to be tested for HIV and get their test results than women in a comparison didactic program.
Compared with men in a control prevention program, 3MV participants had fewer male sex partners at the 3-month follow-up and fewer episodes of unprotected anal intercourse with casual male partners at the 6-month follow-up. Throughout the 15-month program, 3MV participants were more likely to undergo HIV testing than men in the control program.
“The intervention strategies presented here share common elements: targeting population groups with higher risk or poorer outcomes; increasing knowledge and consideration of social, environmental, and behavioral factors that increase risks for negative health outcomes; enhancing community support and engagement; promoting cultural sensitivity and appropriateness; and following principles of program evaluation,” CDC researchers wrote in the report.