Despite recent improvements, vulnerable populations in the U.S. continue to face worse health outcomes. Overall health and access to healthcare varies depending on race, sexual orientation, and economic status. For example, Americans living in poverty are more likely to be in poor health compared with those with higher income levels.1 Some leaders in Congress have written a bill designed to address healthcare disparities: The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA).
What Is the HEAA?
In the words of Representatives Barbara Lee and Judy Chu, two of the bill’s sponsors, “[the] HEAA envisions a country where all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, or background, have the security of quality healthcare—a nation where each one of our neighbors can visit the doctor and know they’re being heard, respected, and cared for.”2 If passed, the bill would make both large and small changes to the healthcare and social welfare systems, adding programs and improving protections for minority classes.
Why Is the HEAA Needed?
Supporters of the HEAA point to statistics that demonstrate the current lack of health equity. For example, mental health research has found that while mental illness is more or less equally prevalent in all groups, members of minority groups enter treatment later and have worse outcomes.3 Similarly, health issues like diabetes, cancer, chronic hepatitis B, and HIV are all more prevalent in one or more minority group than they are in the straight, white population.2 These disparities are the result of multiple issues, including lack of healthcare access, a lack of cultural competency among providers, and a lack of research into and/or understanding of the medical conditions disproportionately affecting minority groups.
What Does the HEAA Specifically Address?
The HEAA is a major piece of legislation with numerous elements addressing multiple issues spread across ten title sections.4 The ten major areas addressed include:
Title I: Data Collection and Reporting—Designed to improve the collection, accuracy, and use of health data.
Title II: Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Care—Designed to enhance access to culturally competent care and improve language access.
Title III: Health Workforce Diversity—Designed to promote and support diversity within the healthcare profession.
Title IV: Improvement of Healthcare Services—Designed to improve health insurance coverage within communities of color.
Title V: Improving Health Outcomes for Women, Children, and Families: Designed to reduce health disparities faced by women and children.
Title VI: Mental Health—Designed to improve mental healthcare within communities of color.
Title VII: Addressing High-Impact Minority Diseases—Designed to increase focus on combating diseases that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities.
Title VIII: Health Information Technology—Designed to improve access to health information technologies within underserved communities.
Title IX: Accountability and Evaluation—Designed to increase government oversight of programs tasked with reducing health disparities.
Title X: Addressing Social Determinants and Improving Environmental Justice—Designed to improve preventative care and provide more resources to help communities overcome negative social determinants.
How Can You Help Improve People’s Health?
Legislation like the HEAA comes as a result of years of work by policymakers and academics. If you want to play a role in creating landmark legislation like the HEAA—or want to make other positive contributions to national or world health—one of the best choices you can make is to earn an advanced degree. Specifically, you should consider a PhD in Public Health.
When you study public health at the PhD level, you can gain the knowledge and skills you need to plan, implement, and evaluate prevention programs and services. This, in turn, can help you succeed in some of the top careers in public health, including in research and policymaking.
If you’re concerned that earning a PhD in Public Health would overly disrupt your life, there’s a way to make earning a PhD degree more feasible: online education. When you earn a PhD in Public Health online, you can complete your courses right from home. Plus, online public health degree programs are designed to provide daily flexibility, allowing you to choose when you attend class. That makes online learning particularly advantageous if you want to continue working full time while earning your degree.
Health disparities affect many Americans, which is why we need public health researchers capable of finding ways to better address the health needs of underserved communities. When you earn a PhD in Public Health online, you can put yourself in position to be the kind of expert the U.S. needs.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering a PhD in Public Health degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.