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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 21, 1998

                             February 21, 1998

Today, President Clinton announced a new initiative that sets a national goal of eliminating by the year 2010, longstanding disparities in health status that affect racial and ethnic minority groups. The President announced that the Federal government will, for the first time, set high national health goals for all Americans, ending a practice of separate, lower goals for racial and ethnic minorities. To help reach these ambitious targets, the President also announced a five-step plan to mobilize the resources and expertise of the Federal government, the private sector, and local communities to eliminate disparities that for too long have been treated as intractable.

BUILDING ON THE RECORD OF IMPROVEMENTS IN HEALTH STATUS FOR ALL AMERICANS. Since 1993, key indicators show that our nation's health has greatly improved. The President highlighted the fact that infant mortality has reached an all-time low, childhood immunization levels are at record highs, and HIV and AIDS rates are falling for the first time in the history of the epidemic.

RECOGNIZING AND CONDEMNING UNACCEPTABLE RACIAL AND ETHNIC HEALTH DISPARITIES THAT EXIST TODAY. Despite some encouraging news, the President condemned the fact that minorities suffer from certain diseases at up to five times the rate of white Americans. For example, infant mortality rates are 2 1/2 times higher for African-Americans and 1 1/2 times higher for Native Americans. African-American men under 65 suffer from prostate cancer at nearly twice the rate of whites; Vietnamese women suffer from cervical cancer at nearly five times the rate of whites; and Latinos have two to three times the rate of stomach cancer. African-American men also suffer from heart disease at nearly twice the rate of whites. Native Americans suffer from diabetes at nearly three times the average rate, while African-Americans suffer 70 percent higher rates than white Americans.

MOBILIZING ALL AMERICANS TO CLOSE GAPS IN HEALTH STATUS. To close these gaps, the President today announced a five-step plan that sets a national goal of eliminating health disparities in six areas by the year 2010: infant mortality; cancer screening and management; cardiovascular disease; diabetes; HIV/AIDS rates; and child and adult immunization levels. The President's plan:

        Spurs New, Local, Innovative Strategies to Address Disparities.
        Seriously addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health 
        will require not only the focused application of existing 
        knowledge and best practices, but the development of new 
        approaches.  The President's budget proposes a total of $150 
        million over five years for grants to up to 30 communities, 
        chosen through a competitive grant process.  These grants will 
        be used to conduct research to devise innovative new strategies 
        to improve minority health status.  Successful approaches 
        learned in these communities will be applied to all health 
        programs across the Department of Health and Human Services.

        Builds on Approaches That Have Proven Successful at Addressing
        Racial and Health Disparities.  The President's balanced budget
        proposes a new $250 million investment over five years that 
        would strengthen public health programs that have a proven 
        record of effectively targeting these problems.  These 
        proposals include new investments in prostate cancer screening 
        education, diabetes outreach and education, breast and cervical 
        cancer screening for Native Americans, heart disease awareness 
        programs, and HIV prevention.  It also includes new funding for 
        community health centers that serve historically underserved 
        populations to make special efforts to target them.

Historic National Health Goals. Using the expertise gained from all of these activities, HHS will join forces with public health groups, medical professionals, minority organizations, and the private sector to develop the first-ever, across-the-board national health goals. These new goals will be included in Healthy People 2010 -- a program that sets the nation's health goals to be accomplished by 2010.