By Jaleah Rutledge
Tuskegee University Class of 2018

Each year in April, the Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services celebrates National Minority Health Month to raise awareness and promote information about health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities. This month long observance started in 1915 when Booker T. Washington, founding principal of Tuskegee Institute (today historic Tuskegee University) initiated the National Negro Health Week. Dr. Booker T. Washington affirmed, “Without health and long life, all else fails.”  He was persistent and encouraged the participation of a variety of organizations such as churches, schools, professional associations and local health departments. During the 20th century in April of 1915, National Negro Health Week emerged as a dominant force on the national level in raising awareness about the social determinants of health within the African American population. The goal was to create a collaboration among stakeholders, health care providers, and across public and private sectors to improve the well-being and health of African Americans who were descendants of slaves and had experienced poor or no health care in particular. Sandra Crouse Quinn and Stephen Thomas wrote a thought-provoking, informative account of the historic health awareness week in the 2001 publication of Minority Health Today that can be read here in its entirety. National Negro Improvement Health Week evolved and became the impetus for National Minority Health Month which raises health awareness about all people of color in the United States.

Today in the 21st century, the Office of Minority Health focuses on a specific theme each year during National Minority Health Month. The theme last year in 2016 was “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation,” which conveyed a sense of urgency and dedication towards advancing the United States to achieve health equity.

This year the theme is “Bridging Health Equity Across Communities”. This year the activities included a twitter town hall #Bridge2Health that was hosted on April 12th, at 1PM EST. On April 25, 2017, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities is hosting a twitter chat from 2p-3pm EST. The Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health will also present the annual Thunderclap to raise awareness on minority health and health disparities via a variety of social media outlets. For more information for this year’s Minority Health Month, please check the Office of Minority Health website at https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/ .

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